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La Russia torna in Afganistan? I piani della Nato

La Russia torna in Afghanistan? Progetti della Nato sono in corso. Lo rivela il Guardian del 26 ottobre. Ecco l’articolo:

Russian military could be drawn back into Afghanistan

Nato officials explore joint initiatives ahead of landmark alliance summit, which is to include President Medvedev

Russian troops, pictured recently at a checkpoint in Georgia, could soon be drawn back into Afghanistan after more than 20 years. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Russia‘s military could be drawn back into the Afghanistan theatre for the first time since the Red Army was forcibly expelled by US-backed mujahideen fighters in 1989 under plans being discussed by Nato officials. The proposals precede a landmark alliance summit next month, to be attended by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev.

The officials said several joint Nato-Russian initiatives on Afghanistan were on the table. They include the contribution of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian assistance in training Afghan national security forces, increased co-operation on counter-narcotics and border security, and improved transit and supply routes for Nato forces.

“The summit can mark a new start in the relationship between Nato and Russia,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general.

“We will hopefully agree on a broad range of areas in which we can develop practical co-operation on Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics.”

Rasmussen added: “Russia is strongly interested in increased co-operation … Last December, when I visited Moscow, I suggested that Russia provide helicopters for the Afghan army. Since then Russia has reflected on that and there are now bilateral talks between Russia and the United States. I would not exclude that we will facilitate that process within the Nato-Russia council.”

Western diplomats said it was quite likely that agreements with Moscow on enhanced co-operation in Afghanistan on a range of fronts would be reached in time for the Lisbon Nato summit on 19-20 November.

Officials said Russian-made helicopters were better adapted to Afghan conditions than their western equivalents. Russian forces gained considerable experience in flying helicopter gunships during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, where they are still remembered with fear and loathing.

With the plans yet to be finalised, officials said there was no question of Russian troops re-entering the country. A Nato spokesman said last night: “There are no plans to reintroduce Russian soldiers into Afghanistan – [it’s] not part of Russia’s intent, not Afghan, and not ours. Russians may get involved in training helicopter pilots if they provide some helicopters, but not in Afghanistan itself. In the past, Russians have collaborated on training counter-narcotics police outside of country. None of the initiatives on the table involve Russian troops in Afghanistan.”

The attitude of the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai would be key to the Russian military’s mooted involvement in training Afghan national army recruits, a diplomat said.

“It would be welcome to Isaf [the International Security Assistance Force] if the Russians want to do it and if the Afghans welcome it, too.”

The summit is expected to see a big American and British push for European allies to provide more army and police trainers for Afghan security forces ahead of the scheduled 2014-15 transition to Afghan control.

“The Russians could make life very difficult for us in Afghanistan but they don’t,” a western diplomat said, going on to suggest that the difference now was that Moscow was increasingly prepared to be positively helpful.

New understandings were expected on improved air and land supply and transit arrangements via central Asian states such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the diplomat said. This is considered increasingly important given the rising number of insurgent attacks on Nato supply routes through Pakistan and a recent Pakistani government decision to temporarily close the Khyber Pass.

Russian concerns about the flow of heroin from Afghanistan’s poppy fields would also be addressed through new co-operative agreements, officials said.

The Nato-Russian initiatives are to be accompanied by a summit declaration by Nato and the Karzai government of long-term ties extending beyond 2014-15.

Medvedev (left) is keen to strengthen Russia’s ties with the west after a period of friction that spiked with Russia’s war with Nato partner Georgia in 2008.

The Russian president is also expected to hold a separate, two-hour meeting with the US president, Barack Obama, Rasmussen and other top Nato leaders. Officials said a separate agreement on limited Russian co-operation with Nato’s European missile defence plans was also in prospect.

Medvedev’s decision to go to Lisbon, and the raft of new agreements with Moscow, will be seen as the fruit of Obama’s policy to “reset” relations with Russia.

Nato officials said the summit would demonstrate a determination by the alliance and Russia to overcome past differences – and to reach consensus on the nature of 21st-century security threats. Nato’s approach is due to be set out at the summit in a new “strategic concept” or mission statement.

Geopolitical disaster

Moscow’s nine-year intervention in Afghanistan was nothing less than a geopolitical disaster, ending in military humiliation and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

An ailing Leonid Brezhnev sent troops to Kabul in December 1979. His decision to invade took place against a backdrop of smouldering US-Soviet tensions, stalled nuclear disarmament talks, and a scarcely concealed Kremlin succession struggle. Initially, the operation went well. Elite Soviet troops stormed the main palace in Kabul – and quickly killed its president Hafizullah Amin, whom the KGB regarded as a US agent. They also secured Kabul’s airport, as tank columns streamed across the border from Soviet Central Asia.

But despite capturing the Afghan capital it soon became clear that Russian troops had no control over Afghanistan’s provinces and impassable mountains. It was from here that Islamist mujahideen fighters waged a series of devastating counter-attacks. They ambushed Soviet supply routes and troop convoys – the same problems faced by Nato forces today. With Ronald Reagan’s victory in November 1980, the US supplied the mujahideen with Stinger missiles, allowing them to down Soviet helicopters.

At home, meanwhile, the war was unpopular. It fuelled doubts about the wisdom of the Soviet leadership. It undermined belief in the communist state. Internationally, there was condemnation: a western boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics followed years of relative 1970s détente. And even diehard communists could see the impracticability of applying socialism to a deeply conservative and tribal society such as Afghanistan.

By the time Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in the Kremlin in the spring of 1984, it was clear that the Soviet war in Afghanistan was at a dead-end.

Gorbachev began withdrawing troops in early 1987; the last soldiers left in February 1989. More than 13,000 Soviet troops perished, a further 100,000 were injured, others were captured, several hundred are still missing.

Russia’s return to Afghanistan will inevitably awaken the ghosts of the past and memories of a war best forgotten. Luke Harding


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