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Russia plays a careful hand on Afghanistan


The Taliban has defeated America, but it’s striking how Russian media and government propagandists have largely avoided “expressions of Schadenfreude”, says Mark Galeotti in The Moscow Times. A civil war in Afghanistan has serious implications for Moscow. As one veteran of the Soviet-Afghan war put it: “Europe and America are far from Afghanistan, but for us, it’s on our doorstep.”

Officially, Afghanistan’s top exports are carpets and dried fruit, but for a long time they’ve actually been jihad, opium and refugees. And an alarmed Kremlin knows “radicalisation can’t be stemmed with tanks”. Some US sources claimed last year that the Russians were offering bounties for dead American soldiers. It’s more likely that they were trying, in time-honoured fashion, to buy alliances with cash, just as British political officers did in the 19th century. The Kremlin even hosted a Taliban delegation in Moscow last month. Its efforts have paid off so far – the Russian embassy in Kabul is still open, guarded by Taliban fighters. Now Russia is waiting to see whether the insurgents will fare better than any of the other powers who “thought they could reshape the country”. The Kremlin hopes they will. If not, this latest Afghan War may be ending, “but the next one may already be starting”.

Read the full article here.