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World powers jostle in Afghanistan's new 'Great Game'

Over the past two years, alarm in Russia and former Soviet Central Asian republics grew as militancy spread to northern Afghan provinces close to their borders as well as to China's Xinjiang region.

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Afghanistan's strategic landscape is changing as regional powers forge links with the Taliban and vie to outdo each other in what's being seen as a new "Great Game".

Fifteen years after the US-led intervention in Afghanistan, competition for influence - reminiscent of that rivalry between the Russian and British empires in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and that during the Cold War in the 1980s - is intensifying, complicating an already precarious security situation.


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Suspicion and mistrust remain the biggest obstacle to stability in strategically-located Afghanistan, which has the potential to destabilise the wider region.

Pakistan, considered the main supporter of the Afghan Taliban, has been accused of playing a double game. But Afghan and Western officials as well as Taliban sources have also spoken about the Taliban's clandestine links with Iran for the past few years.

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And recently it emerged that Russia's ties with the Taliban were warming too.

In December, last year, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Nicholson, criticised Russia and Iran for establishing links with the militants, which both countries have confirmed.



Post dated 16 dec 12

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