Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose tenure was marked by military failure in Afghanistan, says a NATO victory in Afghanistan is impossible.
Mr. Gorbachev pulled Soviet troops out of Afghanistan after a 10-year long war that ended in a stalemate in 1989.
He told the BBC Wednesday that President Barack Obama was right in setting a 2011 deadline to start pulling out troops from Afghanistan, no matter "how difficult" that move will be.
Mr. Gorbachev, now 79, said the alternative was "another Vietnam."
The United States and NATO have deployed more than 150,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to battle a Taliban-led insurgency that has spread from the south to the north and west of the country.
More than 600 international troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, making 2010 the deadliest year for coalition and U.S. forces since the war began in 2001.
Mr. Gorbachev said the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had ended with an agreement between Iran, India, Pakistan and the U.S. The deal stated Afghanistan would remain a neutral country that would have good relations with both Moscow and Washington.
The defeat of the Soviet army in the 1980s and its withdrawal from Afghanistan marked a pivotal point in the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the United States.
Washington helped that defeat through a secret effort that armed Afghan mujahideen militants fighting Soviet troops.
NATO is now urging Russia to provide military hardware and training for Afghan forces. Moscow has said it is willing to help.
The United States pulled out of Vietnam in April 1975. That unpopular war cost the U.S. 58,000 lives, and failed to protect the Asian country from a totalitarian communist regime.
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