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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Is Russia supplying weapons to Afghan Taliban?

News Analysis |

General John Nicholson, US Chief commander in Afghanistan has blamed Russia for supplying arms to Afghan Taliban. While not clearly stating about the quantity or exact type of weapon cache being supplied, he claimed that Tajikistan border is being used for this purpose.

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“Russia initiated military exercises along the Afghan-Tajikistan border but not all the deployed arsenal was taken back. Supplies deliberately left behind were eventually smuggled into Afghanistan and ultimately reached their designated group, Afghan Taliban,” said Gen. Nicholson.

Russia has categorically rejected these accusations and stated that it is not the first time that a high level US official has blamed the country without any plausible proof to substantiate the claim. However, Russia has admitted to establishing contact channels with Afghan Taliban due to the growing influence of ISIS in the country.

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Though the General said that it is difficult to estimate the exact quantity or type of weapons being supplied, some Afghan police officials told media that night vision binoculars, heavy machine guns along with side arms are included in Russian supplies.

Emergence of ISIS in the region generated a shift in the policy of Russia as well as Iran towards the Afghan Taliban. Initially, both the countries supported US offensive against the group, with Iran partially assisting US in the cause back in 2001.

But gradually it became an established understanding that Afghan Taliban are an important stakeholder after US failed to uproot them. This realization coupled with the rise of ISIS forced Russia to reconsider its stance about Taliban.

Afghanistan is no more just a power struggle between sitting government, a rouge faction of its population and a foreign army.

One of the major reasons for Russia to engage Taliban was to counterbalance the US influence in the region. United States has been practically sitting in the backyard of Russian Federation. At the time of invasion in 2001, Russia might not have done much due to its struggling economy and internal conflicts, but now Russia seems to have dug its feet deep enough. They will be expecting a surety of following commitments in return of their support from Afghan Taliban:

  • The threat of Islamic State in Afghanistan must be neutralized once and for all.
  • Foreign fighters, especially Uzbeks and Chechens, will be contained within Afghanistan.
  • The insurgent political struggle will not be allowed to spread in the neighboring countries, particularly to Russia via central Asian states.
  • Forcing a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

Contrary to the American allegations, Russia has also been accusing Washington of supplying weapons to ISIS by means of unmarked choppers. But fact of the matter is that both sides have not been able to provide an acceptable proof to back their claims.

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Afghanistan is no more just a power struggle between sitting government, a rouge faction of its population and a foreign army who has involved itself into the conflict, not exactly knowing how to achieve its vague objectives. Rather it has turned into a “Great Game” involving China and Iran as well.

As mentioned earlier, Iran had adopted an anti-Taliban policy at the time of invasion. But the common threat of ISIS made Sunni Taliban negotiate and work their way out with Shia Iran. Similarly, China has been investing billions of dollars in its “Belt & Road Initiatives”, CPEC being relevant in this case.

The success of China Pakistan Economic Corridor depends on the stability in Afghanistan. Apart from infrastructure security, the insurgency in the Muslim majority province of Xinjiang in China has also a lot to do with the situation in Afghanistan. Uyghur separatists have been known to undergo training with the Afghan Taliban, many of them even joining the fight against the US and Afghan army.

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Influencing an armed conflict in another country by reinforcing a mutinous group’s arms supplies is certainly condemnable, no matter who does that. But negotiations carried out in the national interest is an obvious right of every country affected by the ongoing war.

United States has been known to ask Pakistan to use its influence over Taliban to bring them to the negotiation table in the past. Peace and prosperity is the dire need for people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and China. Every practical and moral step should be taken for achieving peace in the war-torn country .