Afghanistan: Russia steps in to help Nato

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by ajtr, Oct 27, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Afghanistan: Russia steps in to help Nato


    Russia has agreed to return to the war in Afghanistan at the request of the Western states which helped the mujahedin to drive its forces out of the country 21 years ago.

    The Independent has learnt that Moscow is engaged in training the Afghan army and counter-narcotics troops and has agreed in principle to supply Nato with helicopters for use in Afghanistan.

    A number of aircraft have already been sold to Poland, a member of the US-led coalition, for use in the conflict. Now Nato is in talks with the Russians over direct supplies of more helicopters, training the pilots, and allowing arms and ammunition to be transported through Russian territory as an alternative to a Pakistani route which has come under repeated Taliban attack

    A groundbreaking agreement with Russia on the issue is likely to be announced at the Nato summit next month in Lisbon, which is due to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev.

    In return for help in Afghanistan Moscow is seeking what it terms as more co-operation from Nato. President Barack Obama has already scrapped missile-defence shields in Poland and the Czech Republic, proposals for which had led to prolonged protests from Moscow, and Nato has agreed that Russia will be consulted on the replacement system.

    Moscow would also like Nato to accept a fait accompli over Georgia, where Russian troops remain in South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the war of two years ago. American and European officials maintain that the occupation of a member state's sovereign territory is not a matter for compromise.

    The helicopters are needed for the use of Afghan forces which Isaf (International Security and Assistance Force) is training to take over security as part of the West's exit strategy from the war.

    It was the supply of American Stinger missiles by US and British intelligence to Afghan rebels, enabling them to shoot down Russian helicopters, which changed the course of the Soviet war in Afghanistan and helped to hasten the collapse of the Communist government in Moscow.

    That war, with its acts of brutality committed by both sides, has left bitter memories among many in the country, and the news that the Russian military is playing a part in the war is likely to be exploited by the Taliban.

    The former Cold War enemies have been drawn together by the common threat of Islamist terrorism, some of it directly spawned from Western aid to jihadists in the 1980s.

    Moscow is also concerned about a flow of heroin through central Asia to its cities from Afghanistan. And it urgently wishes to reassert its influence in the region.

    The Nato secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asked for helicopters during a visit to Moscow last year. "Russia has reflected on that and there are now bilateral talks between Russia and the United States on such helicopters," Mr Rasmussen said on Monday in Brussels. He added that he "would not exclude that we could facilitate that process within the Nato-Russia Council", a body which acts as a discussion forum with Moscow.

    Russian and Western defence sources told The Independent that Moscow has provided five Mi-17 military helicopters to Poland for Afghanistan, with the first two to be delivered by the end of the year.

    Afghan military officers are already being trained in a number of Russian defence institutes, according to the Russian deputy foreign minister Aleksander Grushko. Mr Grushko underlined that Moscow wanted a binding mutual restraint agreement with Nato and an agreement to delink the Georgia crisis from an arms treaty. He added: "We are ready to co-operate with Nato, because we think we are doing a common job."

    Anatoly Serdyukov, who became the first Russian defence minister to visit the Pentagon where he met the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, last month, said that Russia was willing to sell or lease Mi-17s for use by Afghan forces, and will countenance similar deals with Nato member countries.

    "It is a matter of several dozen Mi-17s that Nato will purchase from us," Mr Serdyukov said.

    "I hope that Western peacemaking troops will not withdraw before they have fulfilled their mission. We are watching things in Afghanistan very closely and we are exchanging our experience with the Americans. Russia is ready to pass on to America the experience gained by our veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

    "Withdrawal of the [Western] troops would naturally affect the situation in central Asia, we currently cannot even imagine how. For this reason we want to help the West, among other things with helicopters, whose delivery we are now discussing."

    Securing new supply routes for Nato forces in Afghanistan – which now number more than Russian troops during their war – has become urgent for the West with attacks on convoys in Pakistan by insurgents, some of which, claim Western officials, are instigated by members of the Pakistani military and intelligence service.

    Russia allows some movements of supplies along its territory, but restricts the types of weaponry being moved. Nato would like this removed. According to defence sources, Moscow has indicated that it may agree to this after carrying out security checks along the route, which starts at the all-weather Latvian port of Riga and arrives in Afghanistan through Russia, and the former Soviet territories of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

    Russia's changing role

    July 1979 Operation Cyclone launched by the CIA, using US and Saudi money and help of the Pakistani military regime to start arming the mujaheddin.

    December 1979 Soviet intervention at request of Afghan government. Moscow falls out with President Hafizullah Amin, his palace in Kabul is attacked and he is killed.

    March 1980 to April 1985 Soviet forces begin offensives, especially near the Pakistani and Iranian borders. US and British supply Stinger missiles enabling mujaheddin to shoot down Russian helicopters. New Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev increases troop levels to 110,000.

    April 1985 to January 1987 Russian exit strategy based on training up Afghan security forces to take on insurgency. Rebels are still aided by the West.

    January 1987 to February 1989 Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan with loss of 14,427.
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Nato's Afghan endgame begins with a helping hand from Russia

    A formal deal with Russia was always likely to be explored by the Western military alliance

    The Great Game reasserts itself. Dmitry Medvedev will attend Nato's summit in Lisbon next month, where the Russian President is expected to provide help for the Western military alliance's faltering mission in Afghanistan.

    There is little prospect of Russia sending troops to the country, but this is, nevertheless, a remarkable turn of events. Two decades after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, after a disastrous 10-year occupation which left 15,000 Russian troops dead, Moscow is coming back. Russian engineers are to renovate infrastructure projects, including power stations built during the Soviet occupation, and to provide helicopters for overstretched Nato forces.

    Russia has a clear national security interest in stabilising Afghanistan. Moscow does not want chaos to its south when Nato forces depart. Yet the deal is also drenched in realpolitik. The quid pro quo for Russian support is understood to be that Nato will mute its support for Georgia and also rein in its ambitions for expansion into eastern Europe.

    This is a bitter pill for Nato to swallow. But beggars cannot be choosers. And Nato is in an extremely weak position in Afghanistan at the moment. America is to begin withdrawing troops from next summer, despite pressure from US military commanders to keep an open-ended commitment. Our own Prime Minister, David Cameron, has stated categorically that he wants all British troops to be out by 2015. Other Nato nations long ago made it clear that they were not interested in stepping up their troop contributions. And some, such as the Netherlands, have already withdrawn their forces.

    Afghanistan's neighbours are moving in, as this week's revelation of financial transfers from Iran to the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, demonstrate. Pakistan and India are both stepping up their battle for influence in the country. And President Karzai is preparing for the departure of Nato troops by reaching out to elements within the Taliban (although not, according to reports, to the Taliban's long-standing leader, Mullah Omar).

    Nato's hopes of establishing a functioning democracy with guarantees of women's rights and protection for minority groups in Afghanistan have now dissipated. The political will in the West to construct such a society (if it was ever there) has now evaporated. The best that is hoped for now is a peace deal with the Taliban and a broad-based non-intervention accord signed by the major powers in the region.

    Whether Afghanistan gets this or not will largely depend on the willingness or ability of the Pakistani intelligence services to force their old Taliban clients to the negotiating table. The West's sole realistic aim is now to leave a relatively stable regime in Kabul and to maintain the ability to mount counter-terrorism operations should al-Qa'ida return to the country.

    The plan does not come from out of the blue. Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, outlined a potential deal last month, in which Russia would help to stabilise Afghanistan. And Moscow already permits the transit of certain supplies across Russian territory. An agreement is also in place allowing Nato planes to pass through Russian airspace. With Nato's land supply routes through Pakistan under increasing pressure, the logic has long been closer co-operation with Moscow.

    A formal deal with Russia was always likely to be explored. For Nato, this partnership with the old enemy makes sense. But whether this latest twist in the Great Game offers a better future for the long-suffering Afghan people is, sadly, impossible at this stage to say.
     
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Anne Penketh: Nato's siren song may well drown out Moscow's bitter experience


    If the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is indeed tempted to consider the blandishments of Nato, my advice to him would be: don't even think about it.

    As the Obama administration desperately reaches out to be able to fulfil a promise that the draw down of the 100,000 US troops will begin next July, the Americans are looking for help. The irony will not be lost on the Russians, 20 years after the CIA plotted to spawn the mujahedin and Osama bin Laden, who defeated the Red Army.

    The Russians do have a strategic interest in a peaceful Afghanistan located on the southern flank of former Soviet Central Asian republics – one that is not exporting terror or drugs across Russia's back yard.

    As Afghanistan hurtles back down the road towards failed statedom there is much at stake. Its neighbours are all jostling for influence – not only Pakistan, but India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and of course Russia, which, because of its own ill-fated military intervention, could never be an impartial observer.

    Following the Soviet withdrawal, the Russians backed the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, which seized Kabul from President Najibullah in 1996. There have been recent attempts to take a more positive look at the "achievements" of the Soviet occupation, but I am sceptical that the Afghans' view of their former oppressors will have changed.

    And so it is that I fear the Russians will not resist the siren song of Nato. They will return to Afghanistan – where the Soviets compared their experience to America's in Vietnam – because they see a possibility to influence that country's future. It may be "anything short of military involvement", as the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov puts it, but they will definitely want a say in who gets to sit at the top table. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

    Anne Penketh is a blogger for The Hill in Washington and a former Moscow correspondent for 'The Independent'
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Wake up Pakistan!

    Samson Simon Sharaf
    The third US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue has met its predicted conclusions. USA is satisfied that its carrot and stick policy towards Pakistan will serve its short-term purpose to make Pakistan more pliable and willing to work for its long-term objectives.
    Specific incidents were chosen to coerce, intimidate and embarrass Pakistan to achieve these gains. The US media picked up on the stories of atrocities by the Pakistan army in Swat, hidden hands behind NATO tankers burning, assassinations and arrest of Afghans willing to talk peace with America, NATO and Hamid Karzai.
    These deliberate leaks also gave the impression that peace talks in Afghanistan were far ahead than expected and the NATO forces were actually escorting key Taliban leaders out of fear that the ISI with its so-called mighty presence in Afghanistan will have them assassinated.
    At the same time, there are feelers that key personalities like Mullah Omar, Gul Badin Hikmatyar and Haqqani are being deliberately isolated and subsequently made irrelevant to the peace negotiations.
    Coincidently, during this entire boil, target killings in Karachi assumed new proportions and a Pakistani in the US (Adnan Beg) being sentenced to jail for fraternisation with the Taliban. So like all US – Pakistan dialogues, this too was endemic to the familiar leaks, spins and orchestrated events. Like an iceberg, much was below the surface than above it.
    The results of this dialogue were predictable. What the US wanted was amply summed up by Richard Holbrooke and his aides about Pakistan’s growing nuclear relations with China, military operations in North Waziristan and peace with India. Pakistan’s high profile delegation had to suffer the indignity of travelling all the way to the State Department to take impromptu lessons on statecraft from President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton. President Obama was quick in his lecture to assert that the biggest threat to Pakistan’s security was from within and not India, but stopped short in admitting that this unrest within Pakistan was directly linked to the disapproval of US policies in the region.

    The US concessions to Pakistan are inconsistent with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan elucidated in the survey carried out by ‘NAF-TFT-CAMP Survey on a creeping WOT’. There is hardly any economic assistance. Removal of trade barriers for Pakistani exports to the US is far away from materialising. Even the much needed disaster assistance for the rehabilitation of flood victims is a trickle. There is a total absence of awareness of the fact that poverty breeds crime and radicalism. It appears that the US is waiting for just this to happen.
    Pakistan-US relations are consistent with a truncated past. Regime changes, political intrigues, tied aid and trade, sanctions, military cooperation and political coercions are all part of this history. Every time that Pakistan was needed, the US derived all its objectives and left Pakistan to plummet to the instability created by a thoughtless and spineless political economy. This time round, it would be no different.

    Pakistan’s policymakers also need to rethink the national narrative.
    The old and conveniently updated scripts in the Foreign Office and GHQ have not worked. Defence of East Pakistan did not lie in West Pakistan. Kargil, rather than elevating the Kashmir issue, to international canvas tied it to militancy; that itself was caused by the US mock Afghan Jihad and anti-Iran policies to contain the Shiite Revolution. Nuclear explosions did not lead to the settlement of the Kashmir issue, nor promote peace, because Pakistan itself set the triggers of a limited conventional conflict under a nuclear shadow.
    The US and NATO carryout routine incursions into Pakistan with no resistance by a state armed with nuclear weapon systems. Not that we wish that these be used, but that the political credibility to handle a deterrence regime appears to be totally missing in Pakistan. So, how are we sure that there are indeed good Taliban who would work for Pakistan’s interest, rather than their own? After all, the majority of Pakistani Taliban were once allies of the West and Pakistan. They have now turned on their own.
    Next few years are Pakistan’s time of tribulations. As the US presence in Afghanistan morphs into a long war for geostrategic objectives, Pakistan will remain in the US crosshairs dealt with a crafty mix of placation, coercion and military intimidation. Pakistan’s attrition will continue for as long as the hare does not stop hunting with the hounds. Though Pakistan may feel comfort in the illusion that it controls the major logistic routes to Afghanistan, the facts may be different.
    Massive convoys of NATO logistics other than arms and ammunition pour into Afghanistan from Iran. The highways are teeming with traffic. NATO and American contractors in Afghanistan opine that more than 80 percent of fuel is now coming to Afghanistan through Turkmenistan. Added to the smuggled and traded fuel from Iran, it leaves a very small percentage that actually travels through Pakistan. Already arrangements are in place to get uninterrupted supplies to Bagram from CARS.
    Garrisons in Khost and Sharmal opposite Waziristan are now well stocked and heavily fortified. They offer ideal forward bases for Cold Start type operations into North and South Waziristan, followed by a quick disengagement and rapid withdrawal. The same can also be assessed of Spin Baldak, the garrison opposite Pakistan’s cities of Chaman and Gulistan.
    Inasmuch as the establishment needs to formulate a new narrative, the people of Pakistan also need a new social contract. Pakistan has to shed its expediently imposed yoke and become a self-respecting independent nation, friendly with all its neighbours; or else lie back and relax to the branding of discredited, unstable and failing country.
     
  6. Agnostic_Indian

    Agnostic_Indian Regular Member

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    A good move by Nato and russia..india should also do the same.
     

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