Reports of a joint narcotics raid by U.S. and Russian forces in Afghanistan have raised the specter of Soviet invasion. Is this a fresh start to the “end” that the Afghan people paid for with their blood?
Memories of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan are still too fresh to be considered history. Heading from Kabul to Nengarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, one can barely find a single hilltop that wasn’t turned into a graveyard during the years of the Soviet invasion.
The smashed bodies of armored vehicles still litter the roadsides; families still mourn the loss of loved ones; and an entire generation plagued by Islamic extremism, drug addiction, and illiteracy reflects the sad legacy of the former Soviet Union’s decade-long military presence in Afghanistan. The Red Army left behind mistrust, uncertainty, suspicion, abhorrence, and so the recent announcement
of Russia’s return has reignited smoldering flames.
On October 29th, international media reported
on a joint US-Russian anti-drug operation in Afghanistan’s Nengarhar province near the Pakistani border. Russian officials claimed the seizure netted $250 million worth of heroin and opium. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the act, calling it a violation of Afghan sovereignty.
Sovereignty aside, Russia’s military involvement in any capacity can be considered a slap in the face of the men who lost their lives in the war against the USSR. Afghans will no doubt recall the days Kabul was under siege with Soviet troops wandering the streets.
Russian involvement in Afghanistan also comes with great risk to U.S. and NATO forces. The consequences of cooperating openly with the country that once invaded Afghanistan may be fatal for the U.S.-led coalition. ISAF forces are risking what trust remains for them in the eyes of an ordinary Afghan.
However, in a strategic sense, the Kremlin probably sees its involvement as a win-win situation.
Returning to Afghanistan can help compensate for Russia’s previous losses there. And, more importantly, they can keep a close eye on U.S. activities in Central Asia, Pakistan, and China. Russia’s renewed presence in Afghanistan may further turn public opinion against the presence of international troops -- which should be especially troubling news for the U.S. led coalition.
- Farishte Jalalzai, Radio Azadi