Putin’s orchestrated Afghanistan game

Robert Dannenberg, Former senior CIA official

Password Briefing Expert Rob Dannenberg He has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for 24 years and held a number of senior leadership positions, including the director of operations of the Anti-Terrorism Center, the director of the Central Eurasian Division, and the director of the CIA Information Operations Center. Dannenberg is a member of the National Counter-Terrorism Center’s Director’s Advisory Board and a senior research fellow at the GWU Network and Homeland Security Center. After serving as the managing director and head of the Goldman Sachs Global Security Office and the director of BP’s international security affairs, he is now an independent consultant on geopolitics and security risks.

Expert perspective—— The images of Kabul are depressing and frustrating—unless you sit in the Kremlin, where people will definitely see them in a completely different way. May be close to dizziness and joy.

From the perspective of Russian President Vladimir Putin, this may reinforce his view that President Joe Biden and his national security team are weak and naive. “This is Obama’s third term‘Putin must be thinking. Of course, images of American helicopters desperately trying to evacuate thousands of people from Kabul also resonated in Kiev, Tbilisi, and possibly Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius—think Taipei. The shocking mismanagement of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan will have consequences that affect the credibility of the United States on a global scale and will continue to exist after Biden’s presidency ends.

The first-level consequences are related to Russia.

The Kremlin and the Taliban are likely to have actual cooperation in preparing for the withdrawal of the United States, which may include direct support for the Taliban forces. We do not need to re-examine the narrative of the American soldiers killed in Afghanistan that Russia offered a reward, but the evidence of active contact between Russia and the Taliban in recent months is obvious, and the fact that the Russian Embassy in Kabul is currently protected by Taliban fighters is significant.

For Russia and the Taliban, there is a clear common strategic goal: to get the Americans and their allies to leave Afghanistan, it is best to do the most humiliating way possible. The honeymoon period between Russia and the Taliban may not last long, but for now, it is good for both parties.

In his ten years as the President of Russia, Putin has been preaching the gospel: In the long run, or when the bargaining chip drops, you can’t believe that the Americans will support you, but you can count on his Russian leadership (think Russia’s intervention in Syria and support for Assad, or their intervention in Libya on the side of Khalifa Haftar-whether recognized or not-etc.). This kind of information is important in the modern era, and it reinforces Putin’s narrative about the decline of the West and the weakening of the relevance of the Western liberal governance system.

In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has sounded the message that the strength of the United States is declining, and East Asia and other regions cannot rely on American security guarantees.

Putin has served as the Russian tsar for more than 20 years without major interruption, and it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. He saw American presidents coming and going, he quickly assessed them and adjusted his actions accordingly. He was really afraid of what George W. Bush might do immediately after 9/11, and he was deeply impressed by the speed and effectiveness of the US response. He adjusted his attitude towards the United States as one of his partners and allies against Islamic extremism (not long after Yeltsin, Putin was still busy consolidating his control of the Russian Federation).

When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad happily crossed the “no use of chemical weapons” red line, Obama failed to take action. Putin also took action against then President Barack Obama. Evaluate. This opened the door to the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s military intervention in Syria (and later Libya). Joe Biden was the vice president at the time. Putin may have a very good book on Joe Biden, and he is very confident in the end result of the United States in Afghanistan. If any of Hunter Biden’s material is true, Putin’s feelings for Joe Biden may even be better than many people realize. One leader’s assessment of another leader is related to geopolitical relations. Putin is confident in his ability to interpret the international opposition.

Just in July 2021, President Biden said: “Under no circumstances will you see people being lifted off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.” He went on to add: “The Taliban rules everything and owns the entire country. It’s extremely unlikely.” President Biden knew or should have known when he made these statements-from intelligence briefings and expert commentary-and historical precedents-when the United States announced a hard deadline to withdraw troops, in this case 9 /11, our opponents use it is time to prepare for their offensive military operations. Our Afghan allies also know this and are prepared accordingly. Now, the Taliban will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attack on the US Embassy in Kabul, and their ISIS and Al-Qaida friends may be VIP guests. If you think the video from Afghanistan is disturbing so far, please wait for the anniversary celebration.

Perhaps in a more recent geopolitical sense, Putin will use the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan to support the argument that Russia needs to strengthen its relations with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Does anyone want an excuse to drive those pesky Americans out of Central Asia and start rebuilding that corner of the Soviet Union?

Putin’s use of the terrorist risk as a military action is well-rehearsed and can be traced back to the September 1999 Moscow apartment bombing (almost certainly organized by the FSB). Putin used the bombing to both consolidate political power and serve Defense of Russia’s brutal military actions. Chechnya. Putin is keenly aware of the risk of Islamic extremism spreading from Afghanistan to Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Russian Federation. In fact, the Russian, Uzbek and Tajik forces conducted exercises in July, the purpose of which appeared to be to prepare for a cross-border invasion from Afghanistan. This is just the first step in his plan to consolidate Russia’s power and influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus.


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Some people may ask—considering the risk of Islamic extremism spreading from Afghanistan to the Russian Federation—why would Putin cooperate with the Taliban? The people who asked this question misunderstood the depth of Putin’s hostility towards the United States and the West and everything we support. Putin sees the world as a “zero-sum” game. Those who harm the United States must serve the interests of Russia. The collapse of Afghanistan clearly meets the conditions. In Putin’s view, short-term transactions with the Taliban are a risk. Putin uses the only tools he has on the chessboard of the superpower, military power, cyber and disinformation capabilities, as well as the incompetence and lack of strategic thinking of the United States. He cleverly used President Trump’s four years to alienate US allies around the world.

In addition to the propaganda value and regional influence that our withdrawal has brought to opponents such as Russia and China, our withdrawal has also had an impact on many of our allies that have contributed to the Afghanistan mission. The image of the Afghans clinging to the outgoing U.S. Air Force C-17 and falling to death will not easily disappear. When we inevitably have to intervene again to deal with the resurgence of Al Qaeda, the ambitious Taliban, or the more dangerous ISIS lurking in the mountains of Afghanistan, how easy is it to get their support?

We should also consider the impact on Pakistan. Pakistan has been fostering Islamic extremism in Afghanistan for decades. Although part of Pakistan’s security agencies effectively cooperated with the United States after 9/11, other parts are also cultivating relations with extremists, including the Taliban. That “big game” is still being played in that place, and the Pakistanis, Indians, and Chinese have not forgotten it.

More than ten years ago, the United States assassinated bin Ladin in Abbottabad, and Pakistan was of course annoyed by this. Some wonder whether the weakening of American influence in Islamabad has opened the door for Islamic extremists to enter the security institutions there. Pakistan is a nuclear power and has increased the development of tactical nuclear weapons in recent years. Does the Taliban now have access to nuclear weapons? This is an important question, and its answers cast a shadow over our withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Although the Biden administration boasted of “restoring power” in Washington, it failed in its first serious challenge. One might argue that Biden’s surrender of North Stream 2 and Putin’s mocking rejection of US election interference and cyber attacks on the US in Geneva heralded the collapse of Afghanistan. The challenge facing the United States now will be to manage the airlift of those Afghans who are willing to cooperate with the United States, and carefully look for opportunities to rebuild the credibility of American security assurances worldwide.

Taiwan and South Korea seem to be good starting points.

At the same time, we need to recognize that Afghanistan will once again become a training ground for those who wish to replicate the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Strong and robust intelligence capabilities are essential to mitigate this risk.

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