News & Politics

Is Russia Arming the Taliban?

(AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, Pool)

Reports from American intelligence agencies and on the ground in Afghanistan indicate that the recent surge of Taliban activity in northern Afghanistan is at least partly due to Russian arms flowing into Taliban enclaves.

Fox News:

I believe what Russia is attempting to do is they are attempting to be an influential party in this part of the world,” Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Central Command, told American lawmakers in March. “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.”

The recent onslaught of the Taliban into the north of Afghanistan — once a relatively stable place compared to the insurgency-saturated southern and eastern areas — can be partly attributed, say many experts and officials, to Russian involvement.

“The success of the Taliban in the north is due to Russian support. In Kunduz province, 30 miles from the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, Taliban has control,” Kabul-based analyst Silab Mangal told Fox News. “That’s where they get Russian finance and logistics and their wounded fighters can get treatment.”

According to Mangal, who cites personal engagement with Taliban in those areas, the Russians have given them weapons over time, including the Dragnov sniper rifle and the PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle.

Getting in such weapons or advisers smoothly, by air or land, is a hypothetically straight-forward task. Tajikistan shares a zig-zag 750-mile border with northern Afghanistan, and Russia’s largest foreign military installation, Russia’s 201st Rifle Division, is located just across the border.

“Russia has a lot of influences with all the tribes here on the border. They know all the local commanders,” one Afghan official, who previously operated in the Panj region and had direct ties to Moscow, said. “In just a few minutes, helicopters can go and come back without too much notice. And boats attract little attention.”

Another well-placed intelligence source, who also requested anonymity due to safety concerns in the Taliban-infested region, told Fox News that the mysterious weapons transfers — coming from abroad — are in due course empowering the Taliban to maintain a strong foothold in the north of Afghanistan.

Not a very friendly act.

I have no doubt that Afghanistan is in Russia’s immediate sphere of influence and they have a strategic interest in what happens in that country.

So why are they arming the same enemy they’re fighting in the Caucuses and Chechnya?

One possible explanation is that they want to make sure that Afghanistan remains unsettled and in chaos. A peaceful, united, secure Afghanistan capable of defending itself would be harder for Russia to exercise influence over. And while the prospects for that kind of Afghanistan emerging from the decades-long civil war with the Taliban are remote, arming the Taliban guarantees there will be no peace anytime soon.

The arms being supplied are small arms and are not in amounts that could make a difference. But material support to terrorists at any level is dangerous to the Afghan population and American servicemen in particular.

According to a report by Newsday, the president’s top defense advisers have signed off on a plan to send up to 50,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in order to save the government in Kabul which is threatened by the Taliban’s spring offensive. But the president has the final say and even many of his advisers don’t think that Trump will sign off on the plan.

But Trump has indicated that he is willing to send some help to prop up the shaky government. Before he does, perhaps he should politely ask Vladimir Putin not to send arms to America’s enemies