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Gandhara Podcast: Untangling Russia’s Role In Afghanistan


FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin met President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan in July 2015.

Russia is jostling for a new role in Afghanistan following the end of NATO’s combat mission in the country at the end of 2014.

Moscow is still far from committing resources or political clout to a Syria-like military intervention, but it has clearly moved away from cooperating with Washington. Instead, it has embarked on challenging the United States and its allies, whom Russian President Vladimir Putin once praised for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan.

Some of Russia’s tactics have raised questions over whether the Kremlin is working with Afghan and regional actors to undermine Washington’s effort to end the longest war in U.S. history. In addition, Moscow’s evolving approach to Afghanistan is seen as an attempt to revive its great power status and gain a seat at the table in defining Afghanistan’s future.

While the Afghan government has welcomed Moscow’s limited military aid, Kabul is furious over the Kremlin’s attempt to develop contacts and allegedly offer covert support to the Afghan Taliban.

To understand Russia’s evolving role in Afghanistan, we turned to Russian, American, and Afghan analysts. Omar Safi, former governor of Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz Province, joined, Nikita Mendkovich, an analyst at the Center for Modern Afghanistan Studies, Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in Moscow. From Washington, Shawn Snow, a former intelligence analyst with the Marine Special Operations Command, who has completed multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan, participated in our discussion.

I wrote a detailed analysis on this issue in May and shared my views while on a trip to Washington, when Russia was in the news for its alleged role in the U.S. presidential election. RFE/RL Media Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir expertly steered our discussion from our recording studio in Washington.

Listen to or download the Gandhara Podcast:

The views expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

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