Russia Checkmated Its New Best Friend

When Pakistan ditched its ally, the Taliban, in September, and sided with the U.S., Islamabad and Washington fully expected to implant a pro-American regime in Kabul and open the way for the Pakistani-American pipeline. But, while the Bush administration was busy tearing apart Afghanistan to find Bin Laden, it failed to notice that the Russians were taking over half the country.The Russians achieved this victory through their proxy--the Northern Alliance. Moscow, which has sustained the alliance since 1990, rearmed it after Sept. 11 with new tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, helicopters and trucks.To the fury of Washington and Islamabad, in a coup de main the Russians rushed the Northern Alliance into Kabul, in direct contravention of Bush's dictates.The alliance is now Afghanistan's dominant force and, heedless of multi-party political talks in Germany going on this week, styles itself as the new "lawful" government, a claim fully backed by Moscow.The Russians have regained influence over Afghanistan, avenged their defeat by the U.S. in the 1980s war and neatly checkmated the Bush administration, which, for all its high-tech military power, understands little about Afghanistan.