For the last decade and a half, Russia and the United States have had largely similar aims in Afghanistan: preventing chaos and the reemergence of a safe haven for terrorists. That convergence has allowed the two countries to work together. But beneath the surface, there are important differences. Although both want stability, they define it in very different ways. The U.S. approach is founded on creating a strong central government in Kabul and a well-equipped and well-trained national security force; Russia, meanwhile, works with a wide range of actors, some of which compete directly with the government in Kabul. Moscow has even reached out to the Taliban, legitimizing a group that continues to threaten the security of both the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO forces.

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This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs.