Russia supporting and providing weapons to Taliban, says US
WASHINGTON. The head of US forces in Afghanistan says that Russia is supporting and even supplying arms to the Taliban.
In an interview with BBC General John Nicholson said that he had seen “destabilizing activity by the Russians.”
According to General Nicholson, Russian weapons are being smuggled across the Tajik Border to the Taliban. The quantity of the weapons smuggled is not known.
Russia had denied the allegations by the United States in the past and they were dropped because of lack of evidence.
British officials claim that Russia itself was behind the attack on the former Russian spy and his daughter on UK soil using a deadly nerve agent.
The US Congressional Intelligence Committee has just published a report concluding that Russians meddled in the 2016 election.
“We see a narrative that’s being used that grossly exaggerates the number of Isis [Islamic State group] fighters here,” Gen Nicholson told the BBC News. “This narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimize the actions of Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”
“We’ve had stories written by the Taliban that have appeared in the media about financial support provided by the enemy. We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban,” he continued. “We know that the Russians are involved.”
General Nicholson’s mainly has spent his career focused on the conflict on Afghanistan. He himself has narrowly escaped death when his office was destroyed in the 9/11
Though troubling the Russians involvement with the Taliban is relatively new. He said that Russia did conduct a series of exercises on the Afghan border with Tajikistan.
“These are counter-terrorism exercises,” says Gen Nicholson, “but we’ve seen the Russian patterns before: they bring in large amounts of equipment and then they leave some of it behind.”
Now the implication is that these weapons and other equipment are then smuggled across the border and supplied to the Taliban.
Though the General admits that the quantity of the weapons given to Taliban by Russia is not known but the senior Afghan police officers and military figures had mentioned that it includes night vision goggles medium and heavy machine guns as well as small arms.
Russia, meanwhile, denies providing weapons or funds to the Taliban but has admitted that it has had talks with the insurgent group. It justified that on the basis of the shared opposition to the Islamic State group, which has been trying to establish a base in the north-east of Afghanistan.
Russia, on the other hand, said though they admit that it has been in talks with the insurgent group, they had denied the allegations regarding the supply of weapons and funding to the Taliban.
However, if Russia does really fund the Taliban they will have excess to many geopolitical benefits to be had from supporting the Taliban.
When BBC asked Gen Nicholson if he believes that Russia was fighting a proxy war against America in Afghanistan, he didn’t address the question directly saying;
“This activity really picked up in the last 18 to 24 months,” he replied. “Prior to that, we had not seen this kind of destabilizing activity by Russia here.
When you look at the timing it roughly correlates to when things started to heat up in Syria. So it’s interesting to note the timing of the whole thing.”