08/24/2010 04:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Russia Strives To Boost Influence In Afghanistan

Generals don't know when Afghans will be ready to take over for NATO forces. Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell, head of NATO's training mission in Afghanistan, says the Afghan army and police force will not be fully staffed until October, 2011, and that he cannot estimate how long it will take to train these forces to take over NATO's responsibilities. Caldwell hopes a number of improvements to the training process made over the past year, including pay increases for police and a doubling of the number of NATO trainers, will boost recruitment and ensure more recruits are literate—presently, only a fifth of Afghan security forces can read and write—and capable of carrying out their duties. [AP]

"A(nother) U.S. special forces raid gone wrong." McClatchy's Dion Nissenbaum debunks the spin U.S. Special Forces put on a recent night raid in Afghanistan's Wardak Province. For example, it turns out that the "several suspected insurgents" the U.S. army reported to have killed were in fact three Afghan students, apparently shot in their beds during the raid. U.S. forces are now also unsure whether the "Taliban commander" the captured during the raid—in a different location from the students—is really an insurgent. [McClatchy]

Afghan election candidates afraid to campaign. Many parliamentary candidates in the south and east of the country are so afraid of becoming targets for insurgents that they do not hang their pictures outside campaign offices. Rising insecurity, which opens opportunities for candidates to win contests by falsifying local votes, has led some observers to call for Afghan parliamentary elections, now scheduled to take place September 18th, to be postponed. [Reuters]

Russia seeks to boost influence in Afghanistan. Russia hopes renewed engagement with Afghan leaders and heavy investment in developing the country's oil and mineral deposits will curb Afghanistan's opium crop—much of which finds its way into Russia—and prevent Islamist militancy from crossing into Russia's frontier. Moscow already has one key asset in the country: a cadre of ex-Communist government officials trained while the Soviet Union controlled Afghanistan, who now form the backbone of Kabul's security establishment. [TIME]