Although Afghanistan was considered as a region under its influence, Russia extended a helping hand to the United States here for two reasons: firstly, in the hope that American presence would lead to elimination of terrorism, thereby saving the Central Asian countries from the evil of terrorists; and secondly, the US was pledging to counter drugs, an issue Russians thought could also serve their interests.
Russians gradually noted that Americans were no longer fulfilling their commitments made at the time of invasion of Afghanistan. During the 15-year long American engagement in Afghanistan, not only were terrorism and narcotics not stamped out, but they also further expanded. On a side note, the US policy contributed to and escalated Russia’s skepticism of NATO presence in the region even to the extent that prompted Russians to finally refuse to cooperate with Americans here, and initiated efforts to establish contacts with Taliban in lieu of Afghan government—all just to protect their interests.
Through its ties with the Taliban, Russia wants to curb the growing threat of Daesh also known as the Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that many of the terrorists fleeing Syria and Iraq due to military pressure may seek refuge in Afghanistan, thereby posing a great threat not only to Afghanistan but also Russia through the Central Asia.
Russia’s behavior signals that its goals in Afghanistan are smaller than those of the United States and mostly limited to protecting its borders against terrorist threats. Given that circumstance, the United States needs to assist Russia than to face it. To attack a possible menace posed to their borders, Russians should also not try to engage in a confrontation with Americans, which can do more harm than good to them.
In the current critical juncture, Afghan government has a responsibility to encourage regional and global powers to cooperate than to face each other, and assuage concerns of all actors by reaching out to them.