American commanders in the Middle East have confirmed Russia is supporting, and arming, the Taliban in Afghanistan, which has been locked in a multi-decade long war, the longest in U.S. history. In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Gen John Nicholson said he’d seen “destabilising activity by the Russians.”
“We see a narrative that’s being used that grossly exaggerates the number of Isis [Islamic State group] fighters here,” Gen Nicholson told BBC News. “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.”
“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 continued. “We know that the Russians are involved.”
He believes this direct Russian involvement with the Taliban is relatively new. He says Russia has conducted a series of exercises on the Afghan border with Tajikistan, reported BBC. “These are counter terrorism exercises,” says Gen Nicholson, “but we’ve seen the Russian patterns before: they bring in large amounts of equipment and then they leave some of it behind.”
“This activity really picked up in the last 18 to 24 months,” he replied. “Prior to that we had not seen this kind of destabilising activity by Russia here. When you look at the timing it roughly correlates to when things started to heat up in Syria. So it’s interesting to note the timing of the whole thing.”
Russia never does anything that is not strategically planned to fulfill a longer term goal. In this instance, control and influence in the Middle East, long a Russia/Soviet dream, seems to be dominant. It is obvious President Putin decided to take advantage of the opportunities the Obama weakness presented in the Middle East and Central Asia, by taking real estate and attempting to push the United States out of the area. The Kremlin may have achieved that goal had it not been for the election of Donald Trump, who as we have recently written, is busy redrawing red lines in the region.