Is Russia losing the Afghan campaign?

Americans feel indignant: CNN does not get with it. Last weekend, Anlanta residents had a rally in front of the television network’s head office carrying posters saying “Half the information, all the time.” The US citizens’ indignation was caused by the fact that the information available to them of the hostilities in Afghanistan is one-sided and does not make it possible for them to assess it in full value. In a word, CNN is not impartial. One can only sympathize with the Americans. As for the Russian mass media, it covers Afghan developments and keeps quiet. At that, they actively discuss the question of who is losing the information war, the USA of the Taliban?

Russia is not willing to get involved in the information war. One can get the feeling that the Russian Federation is not interested in Afghanistan at all. The last sensational news from the Afghan front has certainly been a successful large-scale advance by the Northern Alliance.

Just a look at Sunday’s analytical programs and news editions on the Russian television will give you a comprehensive picture of the events. The Northern Alliance has gone on the offensive after heavy bombardments by the Taliban forces; the Taliban has retreated in order to spare its soldiers. Also, the Northern Alliance has been seriously helped by the US Special Forces (they could be seen at the time of the freeing of Mozar-i-Sharif) and US military advisors. By now, the Northern Alliance has seized Talukan, Gerat, and Kunduz, having thus freed half of Afghanistan. There has been no word of Russia’s role. Surprisingly, high-ranking military officers talking of helping the Northern Alliance with military equipment and ammunition disappeared from television screens several weeks ago. Maybe the military equipment has not reached its destination or this is just being hushed up.

As a result, the whole world knows that the Northern Alliance is gaining victories thanks to the aid from US advisors and special forces as well as US bombs. It is clear that the Americans are actively “engaged” with the Northern Alliance. They did not want to do it earlier, and it was Russia that staked on the alliance, including rendering various support restoring in Afghanistan of the legitimate regime of Mr. Rabbani.

It is over the Rabbani regime that international disputes recently broke out. Pakistan does not want to see the government in exile in Kabul. The USA supports Pakistan on this issue. It is very likely that the USA has helped to organize a split in the ranks of the Northern Alliance. Evidently, the USA, starting from that moment, started to actively deal with the anti-Taliban coalition members, having eventually realized the importance of the process.

Since the USA started collaborating with the Northern Alliance (why not, why launch a land operation if everything can be done with some other’s hands?), Russia has been slightly “moved away” from the process. Of course, there have been no official reports on this delicate matter. Still, judging by what is going on on the fronts, including on the information front, this version is quite worthy of talking about.

Proceeding from this version, the Northern Alliance is fighting using Russian equipment, but to the US military advisors’ tune. What do you think? Who the Northern-Alliance members preferably listen to when the war is won? To Russia’s defence minister? Or to Mr. Smith, who has been around from Tajikistan’s border to Kabul and who, like a good magician, can invoke B-52s to help the advancing army?

You can also look at the situation from another angle. Russian military advisors have long been working in Afghanistan. Also, there are rumours that armoured vehicles, currently on their way to Afghanistan, are manned with Russian officers. However, this is hush-hush, for we do not take part in the campaign: only military equipment. Such a version also accounts for the Russian media’s silence of Russia’s role on the Afghan fronts. Yet, this runs counter to what Russian officials have been saying all this time. There is yet another point that leaves one in bewilderment. It is well known that military equipment has been supplied to the Northern Alliance. Also, it is known what kind it is. However, it is completely unknown (there have been no attempts to speak of it) which routes are being used in transporting tanks and artillery and in what quantities they are supplied. It is also clear that Russia is not going to get involved in the information war around Afghanistan, despite its transparent interest in the region. Actually, francly speaking, the ongoing Afghan war, as with the previous USSR campaign, will result in another Russian-US standoff. The only difference is that now it is accompanied with smiles on faces, hugs, and summits at ranchos.

If the USA gets control of Afghanistan, it will get, in addition, control of the CIS Central Asian republics. It is needless to say what happens when America gets control of banana republics that are totalitarian in essence and democratic on paper. Russia categorically does not need a breakup of the Commonwealth of Independent states. Nor does it want to lose its eastern sphere of influence. It also does not want US bases in the vicinity of its borders. What is going to happen to Afghanistan also remains to be seen.

Russia needs quite the contrary. First of all, it needs transparent relationships with Afghanistan (best of all, the relationships of the allies), which would result in its growing influence both in Central Asia and on Afghanistan’s southern borders (Iran and Pakistan). This is clear, and this is plain, although it is not accepted to say such tings in the light of the “friendly and brotherly relations” with Washington.

It is clear from the information background around Afghanistan that the USA, and only the USA, is doing business there. A serious question remains as to whether Russia is planning some actions to prevent the undesirable development. If it does, the world community may rightfully wonder after the campaign is over, "do you have anything to do with all this?"

True, Messrs. Putin and Bush, talking at the ranch, can make a deal and demarcate the spheres of influence in a peaceful and friendly way. However, history shows that in big politics, friends and foes disappear after some time while interests persist.

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