December 27, 1986

Seven years ago, on December 27, 1979, the world awoke to find that the Soviet Army had invaded its nonaligned, independent neighbor, Afghanistan. This stark act of aggression shattered many illusions about the Soviet Union. The murder of then-President Hafizullah Amin by invading Soviet forces quickly dispelled the Soviet claim that a limited contingent of Soviet troops, currently numbering 116 - 118,000 troops, was invited into Afghanistan by a friendly government. The Afghan people did not invite the Soviets to bomb and burn their villages, to maim and orphan their children, to rewrite their history, and to spurn their religion and culture. They did not invite the Soviets to destroy their fields and lay waste to vast portions of their country.

That, in the face of this brutal onslaught, the Afghan people still refuse to surrender is evidence that freedom cannot be bought, stolen, or wrenched from those determined to defend it. But the Afghan people alone cannot hope to defeat Soviet power. They need the support of governments and peoples everywhere. The Soviets must be made to understand that they will continue to pay a higher and higher price until they accept the necessity for a political solution involving the prompt withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan and self-determination for the Afghan people.

Last month 122 nations joined together in a resounding endorsement of a U.N. resolution calling for a political settlement predicated on the prompt and complete withdrawal of Soviet troops. If the Soviets truly want peace, let them present at Geneva a realistic timetable for the withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan. The United States, which has always supported a negotiated political solution to the war in Afghanistan, will place no barriers in the Soviets' way should they decide to negotiate seriously an end to their occupation of Afghanistan. But empty gestures, such as the talk about peace and a settlement and sham ``withdrawal'' in October of a few Soviet regiments, will not bring an end to the killing and destruction. Only a comprehensive settlement which ensures genuine independence, nonalignment, and the safe and honorable return of refugees can bring about the process of national reconciliation and the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

As long as the Soviets and their Afghan surrogates continue to wage a war which threatens extermination of an entire people, that people will have the support of the international community -- and our support -- for their resistance. The tragedy in Afghanistan makes it clear that none of us can take our own freedom for granted. All free nations must do what they can to preserve liberty from assault. Let us pledge at this joyless anniversary marking 7 years of Soviet occupation to renew our efforts in seeking together a free and independent Afghanistan and peace on Earth.