Russia dismisses Taliban-funding claim

Russia dismisses Taliban-funding claim

Former Taliban fighters surrender their arms.

The Kremlin has denied a Nato general’s claims that Russia may be funding the Taliban in Afghanistan.

General Curtis Scaparrotti told the US Congress last week that Russia was “perhaps” supplying the militants.

Zamir Kabulov, Moscow’s special envoy in Afghanistan, said the suggestion was “absolutely false”.

Kabulov told the RIA Novosti state news agency: “These fabrications are designed, as we have repeatedly underlined, to justify the failure of the US military and politicians in the Afghan campaign. There is no other explanation.”

The Kremlin has previously said its limited dealings with the Taliban were aimed at bringing starting peace talks.

Moscow says it considers the Taliban a terrorist group and it publicly backed the Northern Alliance against the group during the 1990s civil war.

About 13,000 Nato personnel are still in Afghanistan, the majority of them from the US, under the Resolute Support training expedition.

More than 1,800 US troops have been killed in fighting since the 2001 invasion.

In December 2015 Moscow said that “the Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours” in the Russian fight against Isis.

Scaparrotti, Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: “I’ve seen the influence of Russia of late: increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban.”

He gave no details.

Moscow justifies its Taliban contacts by saying it ensures the security of Russian citizens and assets in areas which the Taliban controls and that the group counters so-called Islamic State, which established a regional branch in Afghanistan in January 2015.

The Afghan Taliban promises that it will keep Isis away from the country’s mountainous borders, including those of Iran and China, have proved important.

Last month General John Nicholson, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, testified that Russia was giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover in an attempt to undermine Washington’s influence and to oppose Nato.

During the 1980s the US supplied Islamist mujahideen fighters with weaponry as they battled the Soviet occupation.

US generals now admit that Afghanistan is in a stalemate as the Taliban continues to increase its regional influence and Nato-backed Afghan forces make little progress.

Nato has said that Russia was using the infiltration of Isis into Afghanistan as an excuse to justify an increased role in its former colony. Kabul has said that Moscow should work with the government for regional peace and stability, rather than insurgents.

Picture credit: Wikimedia

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