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Echoes of Afghanistan haunt Ukraine amid war stalemate

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KABUL – The Afghanistan specter casts its shadow over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, creating a complex geopolitical landscape for both the United States and Russia. Ukraine’s top commander declares a “stalemate” in Russia’s war, with resilient defenders preventing the complete annihilation of the Ukrainian state but facing challenges in reclaiming occupied territories.

As the 2023 fighting season concludes, President Volodymyr Zelensky grapples with tough questions, attempting to dispel talks of renewed negotiations with President Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian officials strive to maintain Western support amid skepticism from some quarters, drawing parallels with the struggles faced in Afghanistan.

In the U.S., scrutiny intensifies over the commitment to Ukraine, with factions within the Republican Party echoing former President Donald Trump’s skepticism. The narrative intertwines the complexities of the Ukrainian conflict with the haunting memories of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, where a two-decade nation-building effort collapsed in chaos.

The success in Ukraine, juxtaposed against the Afghanistan debacle, has played a pivotal role in shaping President Biden’s foreign policy narrative. Critics aim to exploit perceived weaknesses, drawing parallels between the failures in Afghanistan and the challenges faced in Ukraine. Julie Norman, a professor of politics, emphasizes the potential impact on Biden’s approval rating.

The Atlantic Council’s Andrew Michta underscores the importance of increased American assistance to prevent Ukraine from running out of resources. Failure in Ukraine, he argues, could surpass the magnitude of the Afghanistan failure, carrying potential global consequences as Beijing closely observes.

The comparison between the two conflicts remains a contentious issue, with observers highlighting the differences between a conventional war and the asymmetric wars seen in Afghanistan. Oleg Ignatov of the International Crisis Group notes that the Kremlin’s perception of U.S. reluctance to intervene in Ukraine was a mistake, and the Ukrainian war has become an existential struggle in Russian propaganda.

Pavel Luzin, a Russian political analyst, dismisses direct comparisons, emphasizing the distinct nature of the conflicts. The narrative within Russia, Ignatov explains, differs from the Afghan war background, portraying the Ukrainian conflict as all-encompassing. The stakes are high, with the fear that losing this war could lead to dire consequences for Russia, echoing narratives of historical collapses.

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