Just hours after a key district in southern Afghanistan was taken by the Taliban, a top U.S. general in Europe told lawmakers there is evidence Russia is aiding the Taliban in an attempt to sabotage the United States.
On Thursday, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of the U.S. military’s European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander for NATO, told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “I’ve seen the influence of Russia of late, increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban.”
Until Scaparrotti’s announcement, top Pentagon officials believed Moscow had only been involved with the Taliban to counter NATO. Now officials say Russia, Iran, and Pakistan have lent support to the Taliban over the past year.
The Sangin district, which fell to the Taliban on Thursday, is in southern Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand Province and was once considered the most dangerous battleground for U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan.
Foreign NATO combat troops and U.S. Marines withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 to leave only a small, U.S.-led advise and training mission behind to test whether Afghan security forces could hold back the Taliban. With Sangin’s fall, three hundred Marines will return to Helman this spring to relieve an Army unit.
At this time, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti did not indicate the specific supplies Russia may have given to the Taliban.
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