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The Russian stance on the Afghan war and reaction to the USZ withdrawal from the region is being closely watched by observers here. They find the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent statement opposing the Nato’s plan to withdraw its forces from the country by 2014 “relevant and intriguing.”
Lavrov, speaking at a meeting of Nato defence and foreign ministers in Brussels recently, opposed the withdrawal plan, saying the 2014 deadline was artificial which, besides Russia, had also worried China and other countries. He added that the Nato troops should remain in the country till the Afghan government forces were properly trained and could ensure security.
The Nato is planning to hand over responsibility for the war to the highly incompetent hireling Afghan puppet forces by the middle of 2013 and recall all its troops, which had reached their peak of 140,000 in 2011, by the end of 2014, an idea that has alarmed Moscow.
In this context, the international media had quoted Andrei Klimov, Deputy Chair of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, warning that “the withdrawal of USZ troops from Afghanistan would be a very unfavourable development for Russia. It would lead to dramatic worsening of the situation in Afghanistan, and perhaps a repeat of all the turbulence that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan (in 1989). We are watching (the approaching deadline for Nato withdrawal) with deep wariness and perplexity.
This was reinforced by two researchers, Dmitri Trenin and Alexey Malashenko of Carnegie Moscow Centre, who said in a report that the Russian objectives in Afghanistan were to prevent “an outright Taliban victory fearing that if the Taliban regain control they could export radicalism and support rebel activity in Russia’s near abroad.
Stem the flow of drugs out of Afghanistan to Russia’s consumers. Its leaders worry about the exponential growth in narcotics production of narcotics in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Restore a neutral, pacified Afghanistan to serve as a buffer state between Central Asia and the Greater Middle East.” They concede the situation is illustrative of a significant problem.
Meanwhile, an Afghan affairs expert here said: “The USZ is fighting Russia’s war in Afghanistan against radicalism and terrorism — albeit unintentionally or unwillingly. Russia knows this and also understands that if the Nato leaves the country by 2014 without finishing the unsavoury business of extremist elements, it will have to somehow get involved in the conflict.”
The observer said the Russians were worried about the "extremist" elements that threatened to destabilize its soft underbelly i.e. Central Asia. He recalled the infiltration by the extremists into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan during the nineties, which had greatly upset Moscow. He added that the USZ departure by 2014 had reduced chances for a positive outcome of the conflict.
As the Russians find the situation downright depressing and their opposition to the USZ withdrawal continues, the ordinary Americans wonder what do they have going for them in Afghanistan, strategically. The likeliest scenario is that the USZ Afghan nightmare may end in 2014 but for Russia, it could be the beginning of an era of general malaise, confusion and reorientation of policies — and a new Afghan nightmare, since pure Islamic governments always give nightmares to satan worshipers.