The United States should give a tough response to Russia if it confirms the fact of its collusion with members of the Afghan radical Taliban movement (the organization is banned in Russia). This proposal was made in conversation with The Washington Post by the former commander of international forces led by the United States and NATO in Afghanistan, retired General John Nicholson (John W. Nicholson).
According to Nicholson, during the years of his command in Afghanistan, from 2016 to 2018, he had already encountered evidence of cooperation between Moscow and the Taliban. In particular, local authorities informed him that Russia, through Tajikistan, supplied the Taliban with small arms and ammunition, and also provided the organization with some funding. At the same time, the general noted, then Russian assistance was to a certain extent limited: for example, Moscow refused to supply anti-aircraft missiles to the Taliban. Thus, the Kremlin’s actions didn’t particularly upset the existing balance of power in the region, although it did increase the risk to the forces of the Afghan government and their American allies.
At the same time, reports that Russian military intelligence allegedly secretly offered to pay the Taliban for the killing of US troops indicate a fundamentally different degree of Russian involvement in the conflict. “If this is true, it is both a reckless miscalculation and a big mistake on the part of the Russians and the Taliban. History shows that such mistakes and miscalculations often lead to war, ”said Nicholson.
In his opinion, if the information is confirmed, the United States will have to “clearly and unequivocally” respond to Moscow’s provocations. In particular, the general believes, the leadership of the United States and NATO will have to condemn the actions of Russia, emphasizing that they undermine any chances of improving relations and cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
In addition, Washington should suspend the withdrawal of US troops from Germany, which was previously announced by US President Donald Trump. According to Nicholson, the withdrawal of forces in the current conditions will be regarded by the Kremlin as a weakness of the United States. “Moscow will undoubtedly be tempted to try our resolve in other ways,” he explained.
Also, the general noted, the United States will have to suspend the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan until the Taliban fulfill the conditions stipulated by the peace agreement: begin peace negotiations with the Afghan government, break ties with al-Qaida (terrorist organization banned in Russia ) and help reduce the level of violence in the region.
The New York Times on June 26, citing intelligence agencies, said that Russian military intelligence secretly offered to pay for the killing of US troops. Thus, Moscow allegedly wanted to disrupt US peace talks with the Taliban, the publication said. The newspaper called Rakhmatullah Azizi, the Afghan drug smuggler, the main mediator in Russia’s “conspiracy” with the Taliban. Trump believes this information is false, it was also refuted by both the Taliban and Moscow.
The Taliban was formed in 1994 at the height of the civil war in Afghanistan. In 1996-2001, the Taliban were in power in the country, and after the overthrow in 2001, they began a guerrilla war with government and NATO forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States introduced troops into Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.