On Thursday, the top US general said that he has seen growing Russian influence on the Afghan Taliban, and raised the possibility that Moscow was helping supply the fighters.
Russia, over its handling of the war in Afghanistan has been critical of the US. It is now its 16th year where the Soviet Union fought a bloody and disastrous war of its own in the 1980s.
On contrary, Russian officials have denied the provision of any kind of aid to the Taliban. This has contested large swaths of territory and inflicting heavy casualties, and say their limited contacts are aimed at bringing the group to the negotiating table.
Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that “I’ve seen the influence of Russia of late – increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban.”
Yet he did not explained on what kind of supplies might be headed to the Taliban or how direct Russia’s role might be.
Taliban officials have told Reuters news agency the group has had significant contacts with Moscow since at least 2007, but added Russian involvement did not extend beyond “moral and political support”.
Almost 13,000 NATO service members are in Afghanistan – the bulk of them American – under its Resolute Support training mission.
According to Scaparrotti the stakes were high. More than 1,800 American troops have been killed in fighting since the war began.
The US in the 1980s supplied Afghan mujahidin fighters with high-tech weapons as they battled the Soviet Red Army. The US generals says after 15 years of war that Afghanistan conflict is stuck in a stalemate with the Taliban continuing to carry broad regional influence, and NATO-backed Afghan security forces struggling to make progress.