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NATO outlasts Soviets in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- The NATO mission in Afghanistan has reached a milestone, lasting as long as the Soviet occupation of the country.

As Saturday dawned in Kabul, the coalition effort to oust the Taliban and build a democratic government surpassed the nine years and 50 days the Soviets spent in Afghanistan, The Daily Telegraph reported.

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The Soviets invaded Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 1979, and withdrew on Feb. 15, 1989, ending a military quagmire Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev described as a "bleeding wound." Mohammad Najibullah, the ruler supported by the Soviets, managed to stay in power for three more years.

Like the Soviets, the NATO mission, spearheaded by U.S. forces, has found Afghanistan is not an easy country to subdue. There are now 140,000 NATO troops in the country, and the Taliban, ousted in 2001, has bounced back.

Nader Nadery, an Afghan military historian, said the NATO effort has not been as devastating as the Soviet occupation. He said the Soviet army, as it became frustrated, turned to mass bombing.

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