Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

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Russian Moves in Afghanistan Are About Regional Stability, Not Revenge on US

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Russia Matters, 22 July 2020

An excellent analysis Artemy M. Kalinovsky, professor of Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet studies at Temple University, of Russia’s interests in Afghanistan in the context of allegations of Russian bounty paying to Taleban to kill US soldiers.

By 2016, Russian officials seem to have decided that there was little chance of the U.S. achieving anything like stability in Afghanistan, and that the Taliban were more likely than not going to be a dominant force for the foreseeable future. (…) The appearance of the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan worried Russian officials much more than the Taliban.

So, he concludes, the bounty allegation is “less credible” (then Russian weapons deliveries to them).

Russian support to the Taliban so far has been quite limited (Gen. John W. Nicholson called it “calibrated”)—enough to establish a relationship with the group and allow Russia to play a role as a peacemaker, but small enough for other parties to look the other way. Deliberately targeting American soldiers would be an unnecessary and dangerous escalation on Russia’s part, one that would upset its so far carefully calibrated policy. (…) the evidence that has been made public so far seems to be second-hand (coming from informers of Afghanistan’s intelligence service). (…)

U.S. politicians may feel betrayed by Russia’s engagement with the Taliban, but to understand what Russia is up to, they need to stop imagining that Moscow’s every move is somehow intended to undermine the U.S. If anything, Russia’s engagement with the Taliban is a result of disappointment with American power, rather than an attempt to undermine the U.S.