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US commander says Russia supplying arms to Taliban

Gen John Nicholson said Russian weapons were being smuggled to the Taliban across the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.

world Updated: Mar 24, 2018 17:41 IST
HT Correspondent
Gen John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, speaks to reporters at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul on March 14, 2018.
Gen John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan, speaks to reporters at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul on March 14, 2018.(AP)

The head of the US forces in Afghanistan has said that Russia is supporting and supplying arms to the Taliban.

Gen John Nicholson, in an interview with BBC published on Friday, said he had seen “destabilising activity by the Russians”, adding that Russian weapons were smuggled to the Taliban across the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. However, he did not say in what quantity.

“We see a narrative that’s being used that grossly exaggerates the number of Isis (Islamic State) fighters here,” Nicholson was quoted as saying.

“This narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimise the actions of Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”

He said that Russia had conducted a series of counter-terrorism exercises on the Tajik border, but “we’ve seen the Russian patterns before: they bring in large amounts of equipment and then they leave some of it behind”, the implication being that they can then be smuggled across the border.

“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 was quoted as saying.

Russia has previously denied providing aid to the Taliban.

Nicholson’s allegations come at a sensitive point in Russia’s relations with the West. Britain and Russia are currently locked in a bitter dispute over the poisoning of a former spy in the UK, and the European Union has indicated that it backs London’s position on the issue.

Meanwhile, a US congressional intelligence committee has just concluded that Russian provocateurs meddled in the 2016 presidential election.