HARPER: RUSSIAN-AMERICAN AFGHAN DECONFLICTION

In their June 16 telephone conversation, Presidents Biden and Putin discussed the possibility of US intelligence personnel operating out of Russian military bases in Central Asia to monitor Afghanistan, following the complete US and NATO withdrawal, now expected to be completed by August 31. While the Biden Administration has not yet responded to the Putin offer, and may still be pursuing permission from some Central Asian states to give permission for US military bases, the idea of such a cooperative approach has great merit.

For several years, the US and Russia have successfully maintained a deconfliction process in Syria. The goal was to avoid any direct military engagement while both countries were conducting separate military operations against the Islamic State and other jihadist forces. Accounts from US and Russian participants in the program indicated that coordination between the two forces was professional, effective, and built lines of communication.

While the Russian offer and Afghan circumstances are different, the success of the deconfliction program indicates that cooperation between US and Russian military and intelligence agencies is possible, particularly where there are areas of clear common interest. Russia (as well as China, Iran, India, and the Central Asian states bordering on Afghanistan) all have a common interest in preventing Afghanistan from serving as a secure base of operations for Chechen, Uyghur, Baluchi, and other terrorist and separatist groups. The entire US mission in Afghanistan–before it veered off course–was all about stopping Afghanistan from ever serving again as a staging area for an attack on the US or allies as happened on September 11, 2001.

Following the 911 attack, Russia provided logistical assistance to the US intervention to overthrow the Taliban and hunt down Al Qaeda. So there is precedent for US-Russian cooperation in preventing Afghanistan from once again harboring international terrorists.

No one is certain about what will follow the US/NATO withdrawal. Will the current negotiations in Doha between the Kabul government and the Taliban produce a government of national unity or will Taliban overwhelm the government forces and reestablish control over the country? Will Taliban 2021 be the same as the brutal medieval fundamentalist regime of the mid-1990s? The common answer to all those questions is “We don’t yet know.”

All the more reason for the United States and Russia to work together to assure that whatever happens inside Afghanistan will not spill over into a new resurgence of global terrorism.

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12 Responses to HARPER: RUSSIAN-AMERICAN AFGHAN DECONFLICTION

  1. Pat Lang says:

    The Russian offer was for multi-purpose use of their Central Asian bases. Biden has not responded. IMO the Taliban have not changed at all. They may settle for a puppet government in Kabul but that will mean nothing for the fate of the secularized Afghan part of the population.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    Harper

    I may be wrong, but I took this as another example of Vladimirovich’s ice dry sense of humor – schadenfreude in this case. Can anyone really imagine the US taking up this offer and the Russian domestic & international PR opportunities that would result? The mighty CIA reduced to the charity of that gas station masquerading as a country – really?

    Aside from this, such visible cooperation would imperil the entire Russophobic punditocracy. Sadly I think the Forever Enemy narrative will be maintained, even at the cost of ‘losing’ Afghanistan.

    • Pat Lang says:

      Barbara Ann

      I can imagine it.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        It would sure represent a watershed in relations. Despite my cynicism I hope it comes to pass.

    • Ishmael Zechariah says:

      Barbara Ann,
      Perhaps Putin is interested in stabilizing Afghanistan at a level beneficial for Russia. Hosting US IC personnel under close supervision would be an acceptable cost for this purpose.
      Ishmael Zechariah

      • Barbara Ann says:

        IZ

        That is quite likely I think and the DoD may even be amenable to such a plan. But a stable Afghanistan is probably the last thing the Neocons want, now that the pullout is almost done. If the offer is taken up it will be a very good sign for who is calling the shots in DC.

        BTW, did you see the Taliban’s pretty unequivocal response to Erdogan’s plans to run HKI airport? He is apparently negotiating with the Taliban now. I just can’t understand the motivation for a plan which seems to have little upside in currying favor with Washington and a whole lot of downside risk. Neo-Ottomanism trumping good sense?

        • Pat Lang says:

          Barbara Ann

          We have no choice but to keep the airport open as a way out. We can hope the Turks or someone, anyone, keeps it open or we can go back in and hold it open ourselves for a while. This is not like VN. There is no nearby seacoast and no massive fleet waiting offshore to which it is a short ride.

        • Ishmael Zechariah says:

          Barbara Ann,
          The airport gambit is simply tayyip trying to hire out TSK as mercenaries for filthy lucre. Stupid idea. I do not see how we can hold the place unless the Taliban strikes a deal.. I wonder what would be involved in such a deal; Talibs are shrewd camel traders.

          Slightly OT: If you want to have some fun, read what Vicky Nuland, fresh from her success of fuxxing the EU and “cookieing” the Ukraine, is ordering tayyip to do about Cyprus.
          Seems the “sultan” is running out of money and out of options. The next year might be fun.

          Ishmael Zechariah

  3. sbin says:

    CIA would be the people arming and training Uyghars with help from the likes of Saudi wahhabist friends.

  4. Barbara Ann says:

    Harper

    A follow up, if I may, on the possibility of US/Russia cooperation on Afghanistan: This week the US resumed airstrikes on the Taliban, in Helmand and Kandahar I think. This would seem to be in direct contravention of the 2020 Doha agreement which specifically forbids the US “intervening” in “[Afghanistan’s] domestic affairs”.

    Yesterday’s readout of the latest Biden/Ghani telecon includes the following: “President Biden and President Ghani agreed that the Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to the movement’s claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict”. This looks like an implicit statement that the US considers the Doha agreement void.

    It seems the Russians are livid with the resumption of US strikes which it sees as a demonstration that the ground forces withdrawal is simply a change of tactics, to be replaced with CENTCOM’s “over the horizon capabilities” in order to prop up the Ghani govt indefinitely. This may explain the claim of US/IS cooperation made by Maria Zakharova on Thursday.

    On the practical front, it would be interesting to know whether these “over the horizon capabilities” may be enough to keep the Kabul govt. going and if so for how long. Whether this encourages the Taliban to sue for peace, or the opposite, is another important question.

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