US general in Afghanistan suggests Russia arming Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, meets U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, left, and his delegation at the Presidential Palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan Monday, April 24, 2017.

Afghan soldiers stand guard at the gate of a military base in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, April 21, 2017, after an attack by Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen who entered the compound wearing Afghan army uniforms.

Gen. John Nicholson, the United States' top general in Afghanistan, seemed to allege on Monday that Russia is arming the Taliban - an assertion the Russian foreign minister denies.

Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said he was "not refuting" reports that Russians are supplying the Taliban with weapons.

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Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who appeared with Nicholson at Resolute Support headquarters, said the USA would have to "confront Russia" over "denying the sovereignty of other countries", including Afghanistan.

Both countries stepped up their support of the Taliban over the winter, possibly as a hedge against persistent American indecision about how deeply to stay involved, and for how long.

It went on to say the assault on the army base was a prelude to its coming "spring offensive" in Afghanistan.

Mr Mattis said: "2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the global troops who have stood, and will continue to stand, shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism".

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America has spent approximately $1 trillion in warfighting and reconstruction in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in late 2001.

The killings sparked angry calls for the resignations of ministers and army chiefs. "For example, any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of worldwide law unless they're coming through the government of Afghanistan for the Afghan forces, and so that would have to be dealt with as a violation of global law".

In addition to the US troops, there are roughly 5,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops in Afghanistan split between various areas of responsibility. The Taliban attack on the headquarters for the Afghan army's 209th Shaheen corps in Balkh province was the single largest loss of life suffered by the country's security forces since 2001.

"Unfortunately, geopolitical games are unfolding around Afghanistan, which have nothing to do with concern for the destiny of the Afghan people", Lavrov said.

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Whether or not they now wish they hadn't, one of the reasons that some Americans voted for Donald J. Trump as president was that they thought he would take a businessman's approach to America's portfolio of engagements overseas. Almost 7,000 Afghan Security Forces were killed in combat a year ago, and both USA generals agree thousands more US troops are needed to turn the tide of battle against the insurgent group.


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