WASHINGTON – Russia and Pakistan are making plans together, despite their past differences, to fill the power vacuum expected to follow the withdrawal from Afghanistan of troops from the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by the end of 2014, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kiani went to Moscow to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other political and military leaders about military-to-military cooperation.
In turn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has paid an unscheduled visit to Islamabad to meet with the Pakistani civilian leadership.
“Both (countries) sense a power vacuum could develop in Afghanistan but also feel uneasy that the U.S. is yet keeping strategic ambiguity about its future military presence in the region” even though both countries agree that the U.S. has “lost” the war in Afghanistan, said former Indian ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar.
Kiani’s visit is important to Russian officials because of his unusual influence in Pakistani foreign and security policies. He also has a reputation for standing up to the U.S. on drone attacks and is pressing for an independent Pakistani strategic policy.
Moscow has used Afghanistan as part of its strategy in dealing with the U.S. in the region, having allowed the supply route for coalition forces to go through the Northern Distribution Network, which passes through Russia.
In turn, the U.S. has resisted Russian efforts to provide security for Afghanistan through the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, comprised of countries in the region.
This has led to continued Kremlin suspicions that long-term U.S. intentions are to maintain some kind of presence in Afghanistan. The U.S. could go to the United Nations Security Council and seek a mandate to continue training following NATO’s departure.
However, Russia could veto that approach as a member of the council.
In Russia’s view, Bhadrakumar said, there should be no other military functions “and everything that spreads beyond the task of facilitating the Afghan stabilization will undermine regional security and generate an even greater uncertainty.”
The other key regional powers in the region, Pakistan and Iran, share Moscow’s concerns, as does nearby China.
On the other hand, India and the Central Asian countries which have greatly benefited from the Afghan war want a long-term U.S. commitment to remain in Afghanistan.
India, which has extensive investments in Afghanistan, recently entered into an arrangement to train Afghan security forces once NATO leaves, much to the consternation of Pakistan.
“It is Pakistan that feels threatened, like Russia, given the tense state of its relations with the U.S. and India,” Bhadrakumar said. “Both Russia and Pakistan have reason to worry about the deployment of a U.S. missile system in Afghanistan.”
At the same time, the U.S. has not conceded the Central Asian region to Russian influence, and some signs of Russian diplomatic problems with some of those countries are emerging, sending encouraging signals to Washington.
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