CNN TV reported yesterday that officials at the US State Department have said that the Department is in contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding news that the Russian government is supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and is investigating the matter.
Last week, the commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission General John W Nicholson accused Russia of supporting the Taliban. Yesterday, the news agency Reuters said that “Afghan and American officials are increasingly worried that any deepening of ties between Russia and Taliban militants fighting to topple the government in Kabul could complicate an already precarious security situation”.
The agency also reported that Russian officials deny providing any assistance to Taliban fighters whom the agency described as “fighting in large areas of the country and causing heavy casualties”. These Russian officials also said that there is only “limited communication” with the Taliban and that the goal of this is to “push the Taliban to the negotiating table”.
Reuters also quoted statements made by senior officials in the Afghan government in which they said that Russian support for the Taliban “seems mostly political so far”. However, the officials added that meetings held recently in Russia and Tajikistan which borders Afghanistan alarmed Afghan intelligence and defence officials because direct support including arms and money are being provided. A senior Afghan security official described Russian support for the Taliban as “a dangerous new direction”.
Last week, the commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission General John W Nicholson told reporters in Washington that Russia has joined Iran and Pakistan to become a country that has a “malign influence” in Afghanistan, and that “Russia has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban”.
Reuters also quoted the spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry Maria Vladimirovna Zakharova as saying that Nicholson’s comments are “naive and inaccurate”. Zakharova said “We have repeatedly said that Russia does not hold secret talks with the Taliban and does not provide them with any kind of support”. She added that Russia “prefers to achieve peace in Afghanistan through negotiations and this cannot happen without establishing relations with all parties, including the Taliban”.
An official from the Taliban told Reuters that the group has had significant contacts with Moscow since at least 2007, but added that Russian involvement did not extend beyond “moral and political support”. The official added “We had a common enemy…We needed support to get rid of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, and Russia wanted all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible.”