Thursday, March 09, 2017

As the world turns...

I hadn't heard this before, and I don't know if the Indian commentator, writing in The Japan Times, is reliable, but according to him, Putin is getting friendly with the Taliban in Afghanistan, for his own reasons:
Almost three decades after the end of the Soviet Union’s own war in Afghanistan — a war that enfeebled the Soviet economy and undermined the communist state — Russia has moved to establish itself as a central actor in Afghan affairs. And the Kremlin has surprised many by embracing the Afghan Taliban. Russia had long viewed the thuggish force created by Pakistan’s rogue Inter-Services Intelligence agency as a major terrorist threat. From 2009 to 2015, Russia served as a critical supply route for U.S.-led forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan; it even contributed military helicopters to the effort.

Russia’s reversal on the Afghan Taliban reflects a larger strategy linked to its clash with the U.S. and its European allies — a clash that has intensified considerably since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea spurred the U.S. and Europe to impose heavy economic sanctions. In fact, in a sense, Russia is exchanging roles with the U.S. in Afghanistan.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan used Islam as an ideological tool to spur armed resistance to the Soviet occupation. Reasoning that the enemy of their enemy was their friend, the CIA trained and armed thousands of Afghan mujahedeen — the jihadi force from which al-Qaida and later the Taliban evolved.

Today, Russia is using the same logic to justify its cooperation with the Afghan Taliban, which it wants to keep fighting the unstable U.S.-backed government in Kabul. And the Taliban, which has acknowledged that it shares Russia’s enmity with the U.S., will take whatever help it can get to expel the Americans.

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