Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan 25 years ago, beginning 10 years of war which left more than a million dead.
Wrecked Soviet hardware still litters the landscape
While undoubtedly the bloodiest, the Soviet invasion was just one in a series of foreign interventions since the creation of a strong Afghan state in the 18th Century.
Time and again, foreign powers backing one or other Afghan faction attempted to influence events, whether it was the British and Russian empires or, latterly, neighbours like Pakistan and Iran.
The most recent actual invasion, led by the US, resulted in the creation of new governing structures endorsed by the United Nations. Yet without the continuing foreign military presence, some have cast doubt on the viability of Kabul's new government.
Should Afghanistan be left to run its own affairs? Do you think the country will ever be able to stand on its own two feet? Send us your views.
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your e-mails. The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:
Afghans can govern their nation democratically, but only if Afghan people themselves take the reign of their affairs. I know many will argue with the idea that the bloodshed begun on December 24 1979 is still threatening Afghans. Now, with American forces deployed to a never-withdrawing and never-defeating place on the planet earth, Afghanistan's independence should be sought under the rubbles of twin towers in New York and in Washington. It seems Afghanistan is left in far more hawkish hands. The real independence have been lost and will never come back with presence of foreign troops.
Borhan M. Younus, Kabul, Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a principal fountainhead of heroin. People tend to forget this. We need to find ways of eliminating the poppies biologically, and finding the Afghans more honest means of supporting themselves. Neither will be easy. The growers never get much, so perhaps some sort of subsidy to provide good prices for more constructive crops may provide a cheaper and more attractive alternatives for the developed world. How much of the fighting from Afghan warlords is really drug trade related?
Bruce MacKinnon, Canberra Australia
We should see the big picture. Through out history, Afghanistan was a buffer between Russia and the Ocean. So first Brits, then U.S. always paid great attention to this country to be not controlled by Russia or any other potential threats to their interests. And Russia always tried to pass these buffer countries to change the global status-quo in her favour of her. Remember, during the Russian invasion, most feared man-pad SAM systems of today (Stingers) supplied to Afghan warriors by US. Also today this country playing a great role to control the Central Asia which has got vast fosil energy potential. Afghanistan is a buffer between growing super power China, potential nuclear power Iran, already nuclear power Pakistan and future's energy depot Central Asia. Don't look at a small part of it and try to explain the whole.
Cem Yalin, İstanbul, Turkey
Can't compare the old 19th century British colonial rule, then the Soviet military invasion in the 1980s with the post 9/11 UN-mandated US-led coalition attack on the Taliban - al Qaida outfit that had taken over Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan do not see it as an occupation, rather as an international attempt to rebuild Afghanistan after 25 years of ruin. The communist takeover that led to the invasion was not welcomed by Afghans. Today, the international community needs to stay as a partner and friend until Afghans rebuild their institutions and their economy. They have already adopted a new Constitution and voted freely for a new leader. When the job is done, and the country is solidly on track, then we can discuss withdrawing peacekeepers and anti-terrorism forces.
Samad Khan, Virginia, USA
You people do invasion or liberation or whatever you like to call it, in your own countries and feel great about it. Please leave others alone. People all over the world are happy with whatever little they have.
Pratheep P S, Mysore, India
Afghanistan has repeatedly proven it is a land that has served as a bastion for both the illegal weapons and drug trades. Intervention has proven insufficient, in historic terms, in regard to changing that. The opportunity is now, and the adoption and enforcement of new values, more in keeping with the ideals of civilization will benefit the entire world community now and into the future. Without effective intervention to bring democracy, human rights and freedoms, and an end to dependence on illicit drug and weapons trade, Afghanistan would continue to descend into the abyss, taking millions of people, worldwide, along with it.
John Holmes, Canada
The cold war era destroyed the modern Afghanistan. The Mujaheedin backed by US now wrecked the US power thereby common people in South Asia have lost peace. It is UN not US that should take charge of Afghanistan.
Frankly, I don't see why Afghanistan should exist as a nation state at all. The western parts of Afghanistan speak the language Dari, closely related to Farsi spoken in Iran. They are also Muslims, so the most natural should be to integrate western Afghanistan into Iran. Yes, I know this is totally unacceptable today due to the relations between Iran and the US, but maybe in the future it could become a viable solution. The eastern part could be made a Pashtune nation, and then maybe another number of states could be created.
Patrick Weman, Sweden
Knowing the nature of Afghan people I assert that unless and until the international Community plan to support Afghanistan for along time or rather for ever , it would be a miracle if Afghanis are able to run this state to measurable degree of stability. Afghanistan condition is just like a human body, totally without its immune system which can easily be a target for any kind of pathogen, so the world need to put active immunity continuously to enable this nation to live a long life and the governmental system reaches its adolescence or maturity.
Dr Qudratullah, Kabul, Afghanistan
Wow, 3 years on and we are asking if the new government is viable? Must I remind you all that foreign troops were, and some are still, required to stabilise Germany, Japan, and S Korea? Patience is a virtue I fear the media does not have. This will take time, but Afghanistan shouldn't be left alone. The nation needs friends, and I for one support us being a friend and helping the country back on it's feet.
Joshua Splinter, USA
My goodness! The USA (and a few other nations) just helped liberate the Afghan people from the oppressive Taleban. Now it is time for all democracies to rise up and help them complete the march towards freedom...just like they were helped after WW2. If people spent half as much time helping others as they do in criticizing, this world would be a better place. Afghanistan now has women voting, little girls in school and soccer stadiums being used for sports rather than executions. Let's have a wee cheer from the liberals and a helping hand from the scoffers!
Vivien Hibbert, Woodland, CA, USA
How impatient have we become that we expect that 20+ years worth of serious problems will be solved in 2 or 3 years?
Wes, San Diego, USA
In principle, yes, Afghanistan should be left alone. In practice, it won't - the territory occupies a geographical position in a now oil-strategic region of the earth arching from central Asia to north-western Africa (Sudan). Look at a globe and you'll realise that, though by no means small, this is a contiguous, strategically important swath of territory.
Steve, Delray Beach
The US should leave us alone. Then the world will see how we can stand on our own two feet.
Omid Wardak, Kabul, Afghanistan
I am reminded of the phrase in the movie Gladiator: "There is always somebody left to fight." I fear that is where we are these days, looking for the next "enemy" in some ridiculous war on an abstract concept (terror) that can't possibly be won. Afghanistan is just one of many victims, which if left alone, would sort out its own problems. But that probably won't happen since the results would not be what the West is willing or ready to accept. The same holds true for Iraq. In short, yes they should be left alone and yes the international community should stop interfering in other countries' internal affairs.
Afghanistan needs foreign support but not foreign domination.
Nadia Afrin, Bangladesh
The Afghans were left alone in the 90s and the Taleban came to power. Enough said.
Travis, Calgary, Canada
It's true that USSR and US were responsible for the 1980s mess in Afghanistan. When the Russians were defeated by the Afghans with the help of the US, the world, especially the US, lost interest in Afghanistan and left this poor, ruined country divided among warlords. Afghans suffered a lot but there was no one to listen to their voices. When the 9/11 tragedy happened the US woke up and felt the pain of those who suffer. Now it's the duty of the US and the world not to leave until they clean up their own mess in this country and help Afghans, those who are the real sons of Afghanistan, not the killers and warlords, to rebuild this country.
Saeed Loudin, Toronto, Canada
From BBCRussian.com: The Soviet invasion had lots of negative outcomes. However, the Soviet government in a way did not have a choice. They tried diplomacy, their government failed, and when you see the destruction of the socialist regime in Afghanistan and the troubles rising in neighbouring Tajikistan, there is not much choice but to try to stop it. Of course the means that the Soviets used were quite ineffective, but in a way they accomplished their goal of stopping the spread of Islamic rebellion. Now if Afghanistan is left alone, it will fall back under Taleban rule.
Eugene, Toronto, Canada
From BBCRussian.com: Afghanistan became a major stage for the Cold War, after thousands of Soviet soldiers were sent there in 1979 to prevent the fall of the local regime. This resulted in a serious confrontation involving the USA and Afghanistan's neighbours. After Soviet troops left, the outside world lost its interest and Afghanistan was dragged into a long civil war.
Khabir Ahmad, Finland
From BBCRussian.com: Afghans actually felt quite positive towards the Soviets, who helped them to build hydropower plants and other industrial objects before the invasion. The local population hoped the Russians would put an end to the ongoing war between local clans.
From BBCRussian.com: There was as much reason for our Soviet troops to invade Afghanistan in 1979 as there was for the US forces to do the same in Afghanistan and Iraq. Two empires were fighting for power, and now there is only one of them left. Maybe this explains why there is so much animosity towards America in Russia.
From BBCRussian.com: Invading the territory of any state is illegal. The original Afghan invasion happened at a time when there was a real possibility of nuclear war. The Soviet Union - its economy in agony - was trying to hold to its military position by any means. Basically the Afghan war was between the USA and the USSR. But as a result the Afghan people suffered, and still do suffer. The superpowers are not confronting each other openly any more. Russia, the US and other countries are cooperating. The hotspot of terror and Afghanistan had been localised. But there is no containment factor in place - and we see more suppression of regimes considered disagreeable - and new tension spots appearing.
It was an American "intervention" rather an "invasion". The US gave troop and air support to the Northern Alliance. Did we see masses of US troops? No, it was the Northern Alliance that swept into Kabul. And now that the Afghan people have voted and spoken out for their own future with their own constitution, the international community should get fully behind them and stop being so cynical.
Simon Meath, Perth, Western Australia
Let's not be deceived by the successful presidential election, as the current situation proves there is still an awful lot yet undone and more aid and assistance needed. I do not think that Afghanistan - though full of capable and talented people - is able to stand on its own feet yet. So far Afghanistan is abounding in good will only, pouring in from all corners of the globe. But that is not enough to put the wheels of democracy in motion. I am afraid that so far the international community has failed to recognise that.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary
Not now. It would bring disasters. Afghanistan needs sincere support from the world to be able to stand on its own two feet. One of the areas support could be provided is in stopping foreign interference, which is continuing even right now, especially by neighbours like Iran and Pakistan. Once that stops, Afghans will trust this new government. If it does not, we will just wait for another disaster.
Maiwand Majboor, Kabul, Afghanistan
Absolutely! The country should be left alone. They are an ancient people that have survived longer than this country. Unfortunately, they do not have the natural resources that we do, but the continued devastation of the land and infrastructure by foreign invaders is obscene.
Anna Pritchard, Irvine, CA, USA
No foreign power has ever been able to occupy Afghanistan. Why the US neo-cons thought that they could is beyond me. All the foreign invasions have ever accomplished in the long-term is to make the internal situation worse for the people. The current occupation is no different. If Afghanistan was not so strategically located, it would never have been invaded.
Steve, Whidbey Island, Washington State, USA
Steve and Anna don't have a clue what they are talking about. The majority of Afghan people do appreciate what American has done for them. They are not capable of governing their country without the help of the international community. My country was in civil war more than 10 years so I can feel the pain of the Afghan people.
Comments like Anna's and Steve's make me wonder if people think that if they scream fallacies long enough, they will eventually be believed. Is Afghanistan suddenly our 51st state? Are the Afghan people calling for the US to withdraw and leave that nation to its own devices today? Throwing out catchphrases like "neo-cons" and "invaders" doesn't make a convincing argument. When the Afghan people and president are ready for the US to leave and handle the country on their own, the US will be out of there.
Lisa is right. The United States has no colonial interest in Afghanistan. We are there now because the country was thought to be harbouring the world's number one terrorist. I think a lot of Americans sympathised with the Afghans in their brave fight against the Soviets and we were truly saddened by the country's plight after the Soviets withdrew. I believe America is there to help the Afghan people and we will leave when the job is completed or when they tell us to leave. I just hope Americans don't forget about them this time.
Donald Webster, Atlanta, USA
The incompetence of the Afghan rulers and the ever present foreign interference, political and military, has brought Afghanistan to where it stands today. A generation has been lost and it will take a generation of committed, devoted Afghan youth to rebuild Afghanistan as a progressive and democratic Islamic entity.
Ajmal Pashtoonyar, Geneva, Switzerland
For Afghanistan to be a genuinely sovereign nation state, in whatever form that may take, it would need to rid itself of deeply entrenched foreign influence from Iran and Pakistan, and the US and EU.
It is not a question of whether Afghanistan can stand on its own two feet. Rather, will the world allow the Afghan state to stand on its own two feet.
Derek Flood, Brooklyn, USA
I would like to think that we have improved life for Afghanistan, but what of the warlords? If we were to leave right now the country would immediately revert back to its Taleban-era politics. The world has a certain amount of responsibility for cleaning up the mess this nation is in.
Alan, Victoria, Canada