I’m old enough to remember the ghastly Ronald Reagan presidency, though I was too young to give a shit about politics in those days. One thing I do remember was how Reagan praised the heroic “freedom fighters” of Afghanistan with gooey lumps of quavering jingoism and piety that were likely fresh from the pen of a then-youthful Peggy Noonan.
This was when the US helped bleed out the USSR by supplying arms and support to religious fanatics in Afghanistan, including Osama bin Laden, who eventually drove the Soviets out after massive casualties. Then came the blow-back.
And now, as the US marks more than a decade and a half of post-9/11 futility in Afghanistan, it appears the boot is on the other foot. From The Post:
A senior U.S. military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence on the issue, said the Russians have increased their supply of equipment and small arms to the Taliban over the past 18 months. The official said the Russians have been sending weapons, including medium and heavy machine guns, to the Taliban under the guise that the materiel would be used to fight the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. Instead, the official said, the weapons were showing up in some of Afghanistan’s southern provinces, including Helmand and Kandahar — both areas with little Islamic State presence.
Interesting that the Russians felt emboldened to increase their support to the Taliban over the past 18 months.
The US currently maintains nothing like the force the Soviets once had in Afghanistan; there are fewer than 10K troops there now. The Post article notes that US officials describe the current situation as a “stalemate,” but it’s mostly Afghans in the meat grinder instead of Americans.
If we’re a hollowed out, debt-ridden, exhausted empire, that’s mostly thanks to George W. Bush’s dumbfuckery, not Putin or Trump’s. But the article also notes DefSec Mattis is still deciding whether to ask Trump for more troops.
Maybe the Russian arms are a not-so-subtle signal to Trump to get the US out of Afghanistan so Russia can bring that country more fully under its influence, not as a communist state this time but as a territory to be exploited by the transglobal gangster state Putin rules.
Such a move would have to be a personal triumph for Putin in his revanche project, and he can make his wishes known to his lackey Trump in person next month when they meet, possibly in Vienna.
Personally, I wish the US had declared victory and left Afghanistan the day after the SEALs offed bin Laden, if not sooner. I’d rather they reallocated military spending to resettle refugees and provide assistance to Afghanistan as part of a global economic development effort instead of pouring it down the warlord rat hole. But no one asked me.
Anyhoo, it’ll be interesting to see which strings Putin pulls in Central Asia. He must be the most self-satisfied autocrat on earth right about now.