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Paul R. Pillar – The Afghan Lesson in Syria

The Russian military intervention to shore up the Assad regime in Syria, coupled with the previously begun U.S.-led military intervention in the same country — amid uncertainty about U.S. war aims and a reluctance to part with the objective of ousting Assad — presents the specter of a proxy war between Russia and the United States.

Before the specter gets any closer to becoming a reality, we should gain what insights we can from a country that hosted previous proxy warfare, that was the scene of military interventions by both Moscow and Washington, and that continues to be a problem for U.S. policy: Afghanistan. We should learn what lessons we can regarding both risks and opportunities in such places, while understanding the differences as well as the similarities between the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria.

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