Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

"Russia has been cultivating ties with the Taliban to increase its influence in Afghanistan three decades after Moscow’s humiliating defeat there helped hasten the Soviet Union’s collapse," Missy Ryan and Amie Ferris-Rotman of the Washington Post report.

Why it matters: "The Russian gambit is a relatively modest political investment that could yet yield outsize dividends as Moscow seeks to prove its global heft."

  • "'Supporting the Taliban in a small way is an insurance policy for the future,' said Artemy Kalinovsky, a scholar of Central Asian history at the University of Amsterdam."

The big picture: "Moscow has ... sought to reclaim its role as regional power broker, convening secret discussions with the United States, Iran, Pakistan, India and China ... It is part of a strategy ... to protect Russia’s southern flank from the Islamic State’s emergence in Central Asia and hedge against the possibility of an abrupt U.S. exit from Afghanistan after 17 years of war."

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