America’s longest military nightmare continues to haunt President Donald Trump’s Administration. No one can blame the American president for starting the war, but he certainly has not been able to fulfil his promise of ending it. The president, who appears to be losing the November election, would like to end the war as soon as he can — primarily to showcase the end of America’s longest war as a trophy during his re-election rallies. After all, it is all about pleasing his base.
But Trump continues to ignore the fact that the exit from Afghanistan will not be as easy as the entry was about two decades ago. The dynamics have changed and continue to change. Russian President Vladimir Putin appears much stronger and more in control than he was back when the Afghan conflict started. Afghanistan also happens to be the spot where the Soviet Union was defeated and forced to exit by the Americans four decades ago.
History now appears to be repeating in the same vicious manner, but this time the United States is at the receiving end. And Moscow, which is now run by a man who saw the collapse of the Soviet Union as a misstep, is looking for revenge. Hence reports about the Russian intelligence secretly offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan come as no surprise. In fact, there is a lot more that Moscow could be doing behind the scenes to extend America’s suffering in Afghanistan.
An exit from Afghanistan will need a lot more time and effort than and will definitely require Russia’s support. Moscow will always remain an important part of the Afghan equation — primarily because Russia is entwined in a complicated relationship with the Afghan parties, states around Afghanistan, and the west.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2020.