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Q&A: Who else could help in Afghanistan?

The US and Europe play a leading role in working for Afghanistan's stability. Can the interests of China, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia also aid in the nation's success?

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Its involvement is likely to remain soft, says Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. "India has earned a lot of goodwill in Afghanistan over the decades; the moment it gets involved militarily that is likely to change," he says, adding that India's historic roles in civil wars in the region – especially in Sri Lanka – also make it wary of military involvement.

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China: Besides business interests, China wants stability in Afghanistan to safeguard its alliance with Pakistan and to prevent the destabilization of western Xinjiang Province, home to separatist Muslim Uighurs. China is unwilling, however, to send troops to Afghanistan.

Russia: NATO recently asked Russia, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and spent almost a decade fighting Western-backed militants there, to provide helicopters to Afghanistan and help train the Afghan Air Force.

Russia has said it wants NATO to win in Afghanistan and will consider the request. But it remains deeply suspicious of the old cold-war alliance and has repeatedly ruled out sending troops. Ties have been further strained by the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia and by US-backed plans to invite more former Soviet states to join NATO.

Iran: The US says Iran, which shares a common language and historic ties with Afghanistan, could play a key role, despite concerns over its nuclear program and allegations it has provided arms to terrorists in the region. Analysts say that a stronger Taliban could benefit Iran, an avowed enemy of the US, by keeping US forces busy.

Iran, however, wants stability in Afghanistan so it can increase trade and stem the flow of opiates across its borders. Few believe that Iran really wants to strengthen the Taliban, which Iran's supreme leader declared in 1996 was an affront to Islam. Iran helped to train and arm many of the fighters of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, but relations soured after President George W. Bush included Iran in his famous "axis of evil."

What might work against regional cooperation in Afghanistan?

Any expansion of India's influence in Afghanistan could antagonize a suspicious Pakistan, which accuses Delhi of using its influence there to support Baluchi separatists in Pakistan. Some fear increased Indian involvement could have a destabilizing effect. India, in turn, has accused Pakistan of involvement in the attacks on India's presence in Afghanistan.

India is also increasingly unsettled by China's strong presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More generally, in the region, growing skepticism about the US strategy in Afghanistan could prompt countries to pull back from involvement there.

China's moneymaking activities in Afghanistan have caused discomfort further afield, meanwhile.

In coming years, when production starts at the Aynak copper mine, for example, its Chinese owners will get a multibillion-dollar return. The area will have been guarded, all the while, by Afghan police trained by an array of countries, including the US military.