RELATED – QUIZ: How well do you know Afghanistan?
The plan still needs to be approved by the Russian government, but there seems little doubt that the idea comes straight from the Kremlin and is unlikely to face any obstacles.
Russian experts say the apparent change of heart in Moscow is partly because of president-elect Vladimir Putin's desire to turn away from his sometimes-strident anti-American electoral rhetoric and return to more normal cooperation with the West. Another reason, they say, is that Moscow has become alarmed at talk in the US and other NATO countries about a precipitous pullout of forces from Afghanistan, particularly in the wake of last weekend's deadly shooting rampage by a US soldier that killed 16 civilians, which appears to have undermined public support for the war.
Despite its often critical stance toward the US, Moscow has long acknowledged that NATO forces are fighting for essential Russian interests in Afghanistan. Should the coalition troops depart and the Taliban return, Russia believes it would face a wave of potential consequences, including an upsurge in Islamist radicalism across former Soviet Central Asia.