Statement on the Eighth Anniversary of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

 

December 27, 1987

 

This is the time of year when Americans gather in the company of their families and friends, make resolutions for the New Year, and reflect on the year gone by. It is precisely at this time, when we are thankful for our blessings of liberty, that we should remember the valiant struggle of a brave people located far from our shores.

 

Eight years ago, on December 27, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in an unprovoked and blatant affront to both human decency and international law. The Soviets promptly installed a series of puppet dictators and since then have attempted ruthlessly and systematically to destroy the ability of the Afghan people to resist. Despite 8 years of occupation, they have not been able to subdue the proud people of Afghanistan.

 

Some 5 million Afghans have fled the ravages of this Soviet war on their homeland and the oppression the Soviet Army has imposed. As many as 1 million Afghans have been killed. In destroying crops, factories, homes, schools, and mosques, the Soviet Union has sought to deprive its enemy -- the whole Afghan nation -- of the means to support and feed themselves, to sustain their culture and their faith, and thereby to bring them to their knees. But the Afghan people will not be conquered. With an abiding faith in God and a passionate love of freedom, they have shown the world what price free people are willing to pay to remain free. They remind us that freedom is not a gift but a cherished prize to be won and preserved by ceaseless struggle.

 

On a number of occasions I have invited the Soviet leadership to explore all opportunities to bring peace to Afghanistan. We have welcomed recent Soviet statements of an intent to withdraw. Unfortunately, their deeds have yet to match their words. General Secretary Gorbachev and I discussed this issue during our recent meetings here in Washington. At that time I asked him to announce a timetable for troop withdrawal, including dates when this withdrawal would begin and end. I call once again on the Soviet Union to translate its declared intentions into reality by promptly and irrevocably withdrawing all Soviet forces from Afghanistan. Let 1988 be the year of action, the year that will see the Soviet Union end once and for all its brutal occupation of Afghanistan. After 8 long years and despite their unrelenting efforts, the Soviets simply have failed to defeat the Afghan resistance on the battlefield. At the same time, the world has repeatedly and clearly called for the prompt withdrawal of all Soviet troops. The United Nations most recently approved by record votes resolutions against the Soviet occupation and abuse of human rights in Afghanistan.

 

The people of Afghanistan have, as much as any people in history, won the right to freedom and independence. We applaud their commitment and steadfastness, for their cause is the cause of free people everywhere. Let us pray that in the year to come a free and independent Afghanistan will again take its place among the community of nations.