Russians are Back in Afghanistan - This Time Helping the Good Guys

Russia is again helping Afghan fighters nearly 10 years after the Soviet retreat from the Central Asian nation, The New York Times reported Monday.

Moscow is supplying heavy weapons, training and logistical support to the alliance battling the Taliban, the militant Islamic group that controls most of Afghanistan, the paper said, citing unidentified U.S. officials.

Moscow has denied arming the alliance, the Times said, and an opposition leader has said equipment is coming from the Russian Mafia, not the government.

Senior U.S. officials believe Russia, in a loose collaboration with Iran, wants to reassert influence over Central Asia and its vast oil reserves.

Russian Troops Pulling out of Afghanistan by Crossing the Bridge at Termez in 1989

The alliance is getting even more arms and fuel from Iran, the report said.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, are backing the Taliban. Russians are supporting factions controlled by former leaders of the Afghan mujahedeen, the CIA-backed Islamic guerrillas who fought the Soviet Army in the 1980s.

Yet as the Russians move back into Afghanistan, the United States' role in the country seems to be diminishing. The Clinton administration, which supports neither side, refuses to officially recognize the Taliban and has criticized it for militancy and harsh treatment of women. But in May, as U.S. representative to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, visited Afghanistan for peace talks.

The Taliban, which rules in Kabul and most of Afghanistan, has imposed a strict brand of Islamic law that prohibits most forms of light entertainment and forces women to stay indoors, unless they are fully covered by a robe called a burqa and accompanied by a male relative.

The opposition accuses the Taliban of enacting laws that reflect tribal traditions rather than Islamic teachings. The opposition's stronghold is in northern Afghanistan.

You may think that the reason I keep posting news about Afghanistan is that I want to go back there.

That is not true. Were the country at peace, I would be anxious to go there, but that is not likely to happen soon.

All I really want is to get my four wives back.

My wife, who is the mother of my daughter, Shamema, is in Chitral. Her house is only eight miles from the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistanis have got me cut off at the pass. However, if Afghanistan were at peace, I could easily approach my wife from that side.

There have been reports in the past that young men were being recruited in Pakistan to stand at the top of the mountain passes to prevent me from entering Chitral to see my wife.

I am not making this up. There really were such reports.

I am not opposed to the Taliban. They are simply reverting to the law which applied in Afghanistan during the decades when the country was at peace.

However, the problem with the Taliban is that they want to impose their rule in areas where they do not belong. Northern Afghanistan on the North Side of the Hindu Kush mountains is the homeland of Turkic speaking tribes who share nothing with the Taliban. The people of Mazar and surrounding areas speak a dialect of the Turkish language and have nothing in common with the Pashtu speaking Taliban to the south. The Taliban should leave these people alone and stop trying to conquer them.

Haji Ismail Sloan

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