Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a June 16 summit meeting with President Biden, objected to any role for American forces in Central Asian countries, senior U.S. and Russian officials said, undercutting U.S. plans to act against new terrorist dangers after its Afghanistan withdrawal.

The previously unreported exchange between the U.S. and Russian leaders complicated Biden administration hopes of basing drones and other counterterrorism forces in countries bordering landlocked Afghanistan. That challenge has deepened with the collapse over the weekend of the Afghan government and armed forces.

Gordon, Michael R. “Putin Rebuffed U.S. Plans for Bases Near Afghanistan at Summit with Biden.” The Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2021.

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — As the Afghan government collapsed this week in Kabul and the United States scrambled to speed up its evacuation effort, hundreds of Russian armored vehicles and artillery pieces were clearly visible hundreds of miles away, on the border with Tajikistan.

They were part of a high-profile military exercise taking place just 12 miles from a Taliban position, and they were there, a Russian general said, to make a point.

“They are all visible,” said Gen. Anatoly Sidorov, commander of the forces involved in the exercise. “They are not hiding.”

It will now be Russia, the exercises signaled, that will be shielding Central Asia from potential violence next door.

Kramer, Andrew E. and Anton Troianovski. “With Afghan Collapse, Moscow Takes Charge in Central Asia.” The New York Times, August 19, 2021.

No wonder Taliban guards have taken up positions around and on behalf of the Russian Embassy in Kabul.

Consider as well that the Taliban persevered with the support of Russian arms and materiel delivered through the shadowy pipelines that feed insurgencies in exchange for money. (Related: Mashal, Mujib, Michael Schwirtz. “How Russia Built a Channel to the Taliban, Once an Enemy.” The New York Times, July 13, 2020).

Related Online

Basit, Abdul. “Why did the Afghan army disintegrate so quickly?” Al Jazeera, August 17, 2021.

Berls, Jr., Robert E. “Strengthening Russia’s Influence in International Affairs, Part II: Russia and Its Neighbors: A Sphere of Influence or a Declining Relationship?” NTI, July 13, 2021.

CSIS. “Russia’s Recent Military Buildup in Central Asia.” September 25, 2020.

Dubnov, Arkady. “Reflecting on a Quarter Century of Russia’s Relations With Central Asia.” US-Russia Insight, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 19, 2018.

Kirillova, Kseniya. “Russian Influence Grows in Central Asia.” The Jamestown Foundation, May 29, 2020.

August 19, 2021.