US Accuses Russia of Arming Taliban 'to Hide Its Own Defeat' in Afghanistan

© REUTERS / Noorullah ShirzadaAfghan alleged former Taliban fighters carry their weapons before handing them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on February 24, 2016
Afghan alleged former Taliban fighters carry their weapons before handing them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on February 24, 2016 - Sputnik International
Unfounded speculations by US politicians about alleged supplies of arms to the Taliban by Russia are aimed at concealing the truth of America's obvious defeat in Afghanistan, which Washington is still struggling to postpone, Afghan political observer Vahid Mojda told Sputnik.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's claim that Russia is arming the Taliban bears no relation to reality, Vahid Mojda, a political observer and former Afghan Foreign Ministry official under the Taliban government, told Sputnik.

"I talked with Talibs about it and they told me that neither Russia nor any other countries provided any assistance to them," Mojda said in an interview with Sputnik Afghanistan. "They [said] they could get Kalashnikov assault rifles in Afghanistan at a very cheap price. They can buy [the rifles] directly from the Afghan Army. The Taliban usually draws on corrupt [Afghan] politicians to buy weapons from the Afghan military for bribes."

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On Tuesday, during a press briefing, Tillerson claimed that Russia was providing weapons to the Taliban.

"With respect to the comment about Russia, to the extent, Russia is supplying arms to the Taliban, that is a violation, obviously, of international norms and it's a violation of UN Security Council norms," Tillerson said, "We certainly would object to that and call Russia's attention to that. If anyone is going to supply arms, it needs to be through the Afghan government."

However, the US secretary of state didn't refer to any credible evidence to back his claim.

In response to Tillerson's unfounded allegations Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova highlighted Thursday that Moscow has provided no support to the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.

She pointed out that Moscow has repeatedly rejected similar accusations and has demanded Washington provide evidence that it supports the militant movement.

"There is none. Such statements do not contribute to the establishment of effective cooperation between our countries on Afghanistan," the spokeswoman stressed.

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"If Talibs received weapons from other countries it wouldn't be Kalashnikov rifles: what the Taliban needs are anti-aircraft guns," Mojda underscored in his interview with Sputnik. "If the Taliban obtains these [anti-aircraft] weapons, the US will find itself in a heap of trouble in Afghanistan." 

Why does Washington accuse Russia of arming the Taliban?

Mojda assumed that the US is apparently trying to drive a wedge between various groups within the Taliban.

"They are doing this to sow discord among the Taliban by convincing militants that some Talibs are connected to Russia. This is a propaganda campaign against the Taliban," he noted.

On the other hand, according to the political observer, Washington is making attempts to divert attention away from the obvious fact that the US is losing its war in Afghanistan.

"By pointing the finger of blame to Russia, Pakistan and other countries, they [the US] want to conceal their defeat in Afghanistan," Mojda stressed. "The goal of Washington's strategy is not to win in Afghanistan, but to postpone the US' defeat."

© AP Photo / Allauddin KhanTaliban fighters. (File)
Taliban fighters. (File) - Sputnik International
Taliban fighters. (File)

Commenting on the issue, Russian Senator Frants Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of the Parliament's upper chamber's Defense and Security Committee, denounced Tillerson's allegations as groundless.

"The United States continues to measure others by its own standards," Klintsevich told reporters. "The logic of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who accused Russia of arming the Taliban, is absolutely 'one-dimensional': [he believes that] if the Americans supported [Afghan] Mujahedin by all means available — including weapon supplies — during the Soviet Union's Afghan war in the 1980s, Russia cannot but do completely the same. Of course, no proof was presented [to confirm the claim]."       

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It is not the first time that US policy makers and mainstream media have made unfounded claims about Moscow's alleged assistance to the Taliban.

In March, US Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, claimed that he had seen "Russian influence growing" on Taliban insurgents. He went even further suggesting that possibly Moscow could have been helping "supply" the militants. Scaparrotti didn't specify what kinds of supplies he meant.

A month later the head of US and international forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, stepped up with a similar claim saying that he was "not refuting" reports that Russia was providing support, "including weapons," to the Taliban.

Neither Scaparrotti nor Nicholson cited any evidence to confirm their assumptions.

Predictably, US mainstream media immediately blew up the story.

Nearly a month ago CNN reported that it obtained a video showing sniper rifles and heavy machine guns "stripped of any means of identifying their origin."

The media outlet presumed that the rifles appeared to look like Russian-made Kalashnikov guns. Still, the report admitted that "the videos don't provide incontrovertible proof of the trade."

The Russian Foreign Ministry's reply was not long in coming.

"We have said many times that the allegations regarding Russian support for the Taliban, which some Western media make and some Afghan media repeat, are absolutely groundless," the Foreign Ministry said in an official statement. "So far, neither the Afghan authorities, nor the US and NATO commands in Afghanistan have presented any facts to prove these allegations."

The ministry called attention to the fact that the "Taliban drove American-made Humvees in a recent attack on the base of the Afghan National Security Forces in Helmand."

"It is easy to imagine the conclusion that can be made from this news based on CNN's logic," the statement said.

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