Russia accused of supplying arms to Taliban
There's still a war going on in Afghanistan, and if recent reports are true, it appears the Russians may be supplying the Taliban with weapons:
Mattis arrived in Kabul shortly after President Ashraf Ghani sacked the defense minister and the army chief following the Taliban assault Friday on a northern base that killed at least 140 Afghan National Defense Security Forces troops.
Before Mattis arrived unannounced, the Taliban claimed responsibility for setting off a car bomb at the entrance of Camp Chapman in Khost province. The same base was the target of a 2009 suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent that killed nine, including seven American CIA officers and contractors.
At a news conference with Mattis, Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, did not dispute regional reports that Russia, which has acknowledged contacts with the Taliban, is sending weapons and supplies to the insurgents,The Washington Post reported.
“We continue to get reports of this assistance,” Nicholson said. “We support anyone who wants to help us advance the reconciliation process, but anyone who arms belligerents who perpetuate attacks like the one we saw two days ago in Mazar-e Sharif is not the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation.”
Mattis said, “Any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law unless they were coming to the government of Afghanistan.”
Allegations are not proof, but we would not be shocked to learn that weapons are flowing to the Taliban either directly from, or through the good graces of, the Russian government. There are any number of reasons why -- Russia looking to payback the U.S. for its support of the Afghan rebels while the Red Army was fighting in Afghanistan immediately comes to mind. But Russia has long had its eyes on Afghanistan (since at least the 19 century). There is no reason to think Vladimir Putin, who is determined to restore Russian greatness, would abandon an ancient geopolitical objective.
This is something to watch. If proof of weapons support is found, it could put the entire U.S.-Russia relationship back on its Cold War footing (if we aren't there already).