Another Russia-U.S. Proxy War Looms Over Afghanistan

As the Trump Administration struggles to develop a strategy in Afghanistan, Russia has surreptitiously inserted itself into the mix. In late July, reports once again surfaced that Russia has been providing material support to Taliban militants battling U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces. In some respects, this seems as though a complete role reversal between the U.S. and Russia in Afghanistan has taken place over the last three-plus decades. During the 1980s, the CIA funneled weapons to Afghan rebels who were fighting Kabul’s communist government and the Soviet troops backing it. And now, by aiding the Taliban, Russia has seized an opportunity to inflict casualties on U.S. supported Afghan forces and extract revenge.

“The Russians probably look at this role reversal as a delicious irony and a payback for their own involvement in Afghanistan years ago,” Mike Sulick, Cipher Brief expert and former Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, told The Cipher Brief. “They have a long memory. I’m sure many of them still resent the U.S. provision of weapons to the Afghans and eventually, the Russians walking from the area with their heads held down.”

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