Posted tagged ‘Russia and Taliban’

Pentagon Chief James Mattis: Iran, Russia Still Arming Afghan Taliban

September 29, 2017

Pentagon Chief James Mattis: Iran, Russia Still Arming Afghan Taliban, BreitbartEdwin Mora, September 29, 2017

Getty Images

The Trump plan to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan is “determined” to force the Taliban to the peace negotiation table, said Gen. Nicholson.

Moreover, Trump’s plan is expected to pressure Pakistan to no longer harbor terrorist groups fighting and killing Americans in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their ally the Haqqani Network, among others.

Unlike the failed policy of the previous administration, conditions on the ground will drive Trump’s strategy rather than arbitrary timelines.

In other words, the Trump administration has not set any timetables to draw down its forces, choosing to wait until it accomplishes its goals instead.

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Russia and U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism Iran continue to provide weapons and other military aid to Taliban jihadists in Afghanistan, reiterates United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, repeating accusations made by the United States armed forces.

During his first visit to Afghanistan since U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled a new South Asia strategy last month, Secretary Mattis discussed the ongoing 16-year-old war in Afghanistan with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and American Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of U.S. and international troops in the conflict-ridden nation.

The Pentagon chief blasted Russia and Iran’s continued support to Taliban jihadists, echoing concerns previously expressed by U.S. officials, including Gen. Nicholson, who has also noted that Pakistan is assisting the terrorist group as well.

“Those two countries have suffered losses to terrorism, so I think it would be extremely unwise if they think they can somehow support terrorism in another country and not have it come back to haunt them,” declared Mattis, referring to Iran and Russia, reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). 

Support from Russia and Iran is strengthening the Taliban and lending legitimacy to the jihadist organization, notes the newspaper, citing unnamed U.S. military officials.

“That’s a lot more dangerous right now than what they’re providing in terms of material,” a military official told the WSJ. 

Russia and Iran have conceded sharing information with the Taliban to fight their mutual enemy, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but both countries deny providing military assistance to the group.

Afghanistan’s neighbor Iran, which the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) recently said “remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” has also dismissed accusations that it is providing sanctuary to the Taliban.

In December 2016, Gen. Nicholson told Pentagon reporters that the United States is concerned about the “malign influence of external actors” in Afghanistan, such as “Pakistan, Russia, and Iran,” noting that the countries are assisting the Taliban.

The general explained:

Russia has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban. And their narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the [U.S.-backed] Afghan government… this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents.

Soon after the top U.S. general made those remarks, Reuters learned from unnamed Taliban fighters that the jihadist group had maintained “significant contacts” with Russia since at least 2007, long before ISIS came into the scene.

An anonymous senior Taliban fighter told Reuters that the “sole purpose” of their cooperation with Russia is to push the U.S. military and their allies out of Afghanistan.

The Taliban alleges that Russia’s support is only “political.”

As part of President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, the United States has authorized the deployment of 3,000 additional American troops, bringing the total in Afghanistan to 14,000.

The Trump plan to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan is “determined” to force the Taliban to the peace negotiation table, said Gen. Nicholson.

Moreover, Trump’s plan is expected to pressure Pakistan to no longer harbor terrorist groups fighting and killing Americans in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their ally the Haqqani Network, among others.

Unlike the failed policy of the previous administration, conditions on the ground will drive Trump’s strategy rather than arbitrary timelines.

In other words, the Trump administration has not set any timetables to draw down its forces, choosing to wait until it accomplishes its goals instead.

Gen. Nicholson has welcomed the changes, recently telling reporters the Taliban leadership has “atomized” as a result, reveals the WSJ. 

“For years, they thought we were leaving,” he added, noting that new U.S. and NATO commitments have eliminated that notion.

Although the Taliban remains the most prominent terrorist group in Afghanistan, ISIS has strengthened its reach and influence in the country in recent months.

The Taliban contests or controls 45 percent of Afghanistan, reported the Long War Journal this week, echoing assessment by the U.S. military and the terrorist group itself.

Terrorists launched a rocket attack on the Kabul international airport soon after Mattis landed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, allegedly targeting the Pentagon chief.

The incident is a testament to the deteriorating security conditions Trump inherited from his predecessor.

Both the Taliban and its alleged rival ISIS have reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Videos suggest Russian government may be arming Taliban

July 26, 2017

Videos suggest Russian government may be arming Taliban, World Affairs Journal, Nick Paton Walsh and Masoud Popalzai, CNN, July 25, 2017

(Please see also, Taliban seizes 3 districts from Afghan government. — DM)

Story highlights
  • Two videos obtained by CNN suggest the Taliban have received improved weaponry supplied by the Russian government
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment but has previously called claims they are arming the Taliban “utterly false”

(CNN)The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country.

US generals first suggested they were concerned the Russian government was seeking to arm the Afghan insurgents back in April, but images from the battlefield here corroborating these claims have been hard to come by.

These two videos show sniper rifles, Kalashnikov variants and heavy machine guns that weapons experts say are stripped of any means of identifying their origin.

Two separate sets of Taliban, one in the north and another in the west, claim to be in possession of the weapons, which they say were originally supplied by Russian government sources. One splinter group of Taliban near Herat say they obtained the guns after defeating a mainstream rival group of Taliban. Another group say they got the weapons for free across the border with Tajikistan and that they were provided by “the Russians.”

The videos don’t provide incontrovertible proof of the trade, of which Moscow has categorically denied involvement. Yet they offer some of the first battlefield evidence of a flow of weapons that has the Afghan and American governments deeply concerned about Moscow’s intentions here.

“The Russians have said that they maintain contact with the Taliban, we have lots of other reports from other people they are arming the Taliban … there is no smoke without fire,” Afghan government spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. “That’s why our intelligence agencies are up to the job to find out what level of support that is to the Taliban.”

Another Afghan official said they were sure that trade was happening between Russia and the Taliban.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment for this article but has previously called claims they are arming the Taliban “utterly false” and said they were made to cover up for the United States’ failure in Afghanistan. The Russians talk to the Taliban purely to promote peace talks, they said.

US officials have long voiced concerns about any weapons flow to the terror group. Asked in April whether he would refute the reports Russia was arming the Taliban, the US commander here, Gen. John Nicholson, said: “Oh, no I’m not refuting that… Arming belligerents or legitimizing belligerents who perpetuate attacks … is not the best way forward.”

Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of US Central Command, told a congressional committee in March he believed the Russians were seeking influence in Afghanistan.

“I think it is fair to assume they may be providing some sort of support to (the Taliban) in terms of weapons or other things that may be there,” he said.

In one video the Herat group are seen brandishing the guns, which they said were taken from the mainstream Taliban, led by Mullah Haibatullah, after that group attacked them. Eighteen of their rivals were killed in the attack and six were captured, they said.

“These weapons were given to the fighters of Mullah Haibatullah by the Russians via Iran,” said their deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi. He went on to repeat the often-heard rationale behind the arming — which Moscow denies — that the weapons were supplied to help the Taliban better fight ISIS.

“The Russians are giving them these weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they are using them against us too,” he said.

The second video was shot nearer Kabul and features a masked Taliban fighter parading arms he says he obtained through the northern province of Kunduz. He said he did not pay for the weapons — insurgents often pay for guns with opium crops — and that his group received the guns via the Tajik border.

“These pistols have been brought to us recently,” he says. “These are made in Russia, and are very good stuff.”

Weapons experts from the Small Arms Survey studied the videos and said there was little in them to directly tie the guns to the Russian state. The weapons were not particularly modern or rare, and even some of the more elaborate additions, like a JGBG M7 scope on one machine gun, were Chinese made and readily available online, they said.

Yet Benjamin King from the Survey said, “the weapons didn’t seem to have the manufacturer markings where we would expect them.” He said that elsewhere there have been reports of supplying governments and others going to great lengths to remove identification markings from weapons.

“If this is a pattern seen in Afghanistan then it would be noteworthy,” he added.

Sediqi, the Afghan government spokesman, said they had put the allegations to Moscow and also received a denial. He added Afghan officials have expressed their concerns about Moscow’s contacts with the Taliban, which coalition officials say legitimizes the insurgency.

“The issue of contact with the Taliban with the Russians was something that really concerned us as well,” Seddiqi said. “No contact with non-state groups.”