Russia, Iran ‘legitimizing’ Taliban inside Afghanistan: US

Taliban-militantsKABUL: The commander of the US-led international forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson claimed the two countries were “legitimizing” the Taliban inside Afghanistan.

In a briefing to the Pentagon, Gen. Nicholson, said: “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 Afghan government.”

He insisted that the government of Afghanistan and the US counter-terrorism efforts are achieving the greatest effect against Islamic State.

“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 efforts and bolster the belligerents … so it’s not helpful,” Nicholson said.

He asserted that the Afghan government has addressed this issue with Russia.

Referring to Russia, the general furthered, “There is a competition with NATO.” He continued, “We would like to see a change in their behavior.”

Nicholson also said Pakistan, a longtime US ally, was lending support to the Taliban, which has launched a string of deadly attacks in the past week.

It is worth to mention that last month the former chief of National Directorate of Security (NDS), Rahmatullah Nabil, has said the Taliban insurgents are supported by Iran as the country aims to counter Daesh.

“Taliban insurgents are receiving financial and equipment support from Iran, particularly in the western parts of the country,” Nabil said in an exclusive interview with the Voice of America.

He added that Russia’s interest towards Afghanistan has also grown as the violence has spread in northern parts of the country during past two years.

The intelligence cooperation between China and Afghanistan has increased during the recent years, Nabil said.

Nabil asserted the Taliban’s Red Brigade is mainly fighting in western and southern parts of the country, including Helmand, Farah, and Uruzgan provinces.

The remarks by Nabil came as the Afghan officials have long been criticizing Pakistan for supporting the Afghan militant groups, specifically the Taliban and Haqqani terrorist network by providing them with safe havens in its soil.

Afghan officials said earlier Tehran has quietly increased supplying of weapons, ammunition and funding to the Taliban, and is now recruiting and training their fighters, posing a new threat to Afghanistan’s fragile security. But Iran has also been accused of providing equipment to the Afghan militant groups in the country.

According to Afghan analysts Russia by supporting the Taliban militants is trying to prevent the Islamic State (IS) fighters from entering Central Asia.

Jawed Kohistani, a senior analyst, last year in an interview with Afghanistan Times warned that Russia’s support for the Taliban militants would complicate war in Afghanistan.

Kohistani said that the Taliban militants were enjoying close ties with Russia over the past years. He added that the Taliban was sharing intelligence information with Russia to receive financial support. “Russia by giving financial support to the Taliban want to prevent the militant group from joining IS,” he said.

He criticized policy of the government and said that the false policies had turned Afghanistan into battle ground for proxy wars.

Zamir Kabulov, a department chief at Russia’s Foreign Ministry and President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy on Afghanistan in an interview with Interfax news agency in December 2015 said that Russia has established communication channels to exchange information with the Taliban.

He said that Russia has opened communication channels in a bid to exchange information with the Taliban who are fighting against (ISIS) in Afghanistan.

“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan “objectively coincide” with those of the Taliban movement in the fight against Islamic State,” Kabulov said.

Kabulov also said that both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban have said that they don’t recognize IS leader. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, as caliph.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova confirmed Kabulov’s remarks to AFP. “It has to do with fighting the Islamic State group,” she said. AT

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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