While Americans Fight the Taliban, Putin Is Making Headway in Afghanistan by Arturo Munoz - Newsweek / RAND Corporation
When the Soviet Union withdrew its army from Afghanistan in 1989, its defeat seemed complete and irreversible. Most Afghans bitterly repudiated the attempt to impose communist rule by force.
An Afghan communist officer who fought with the Russians told me that his side lost because they could not overcome their image as atheist infidels.
Today, however, Russia is seeking to remake its image by exploiting Afghan disappointment with the dismal results of the post-9/11 intervention by the U.S. and its allies.
This Russian deployment of so-called “soft power” appears to be paying dividends in ways that could hardly have been predicted when the Soviet Army left Afghanistan after nine years of war.
The Russians are ramping up political, economic and propaganda activities to improve their image and reestablish their influence amid pervasive corruption that is impeding progress in Afghanistan.
Regardless of the gains that have been made in some areas, masses of unemployed Afghans have lost hope and are emigrating in unprecedented numbers. Afghan soldiers are fighting valiantly, but terrorist attacks are on the rise and the U.S.-backed Afghan government appears incapable of establishing security across the country. The bulk of U.S. and NATO military forces have departed, aggravating Afghan fears of being abandoned again by the West…