Afghanistan Looking Toward the Final Days

Kabul comes down with a case of the pre-pullout jitters

A Soviet Il-76 cargo plane lifted slowly into the bright morning air over Kabul International Airport last week. As it did, a string of incandescent flares dropped from the aircraft, a necessary defense against Stinger missiles, the U.S.-made, heat-seeking, antiaircraft weapons used by the mujahedin, Afghanistan's resistance. On the airport perimeter, sunburned Soviet soldiers stood around a formidable new stone-and-cement guard post topped by a hammer-and-sickle flag. Their thoughts were turning toward withdrawal from their flinty outpost. "Who wouldn't like to go home?" asked Victor Avershin, a blond, 19-year-old private. "Everybody wants to go home."

Two weeks ago, in Geneva, Moscow...

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