The United States is concerned about Russia’s activities in Afghanistan and its interactions with the Taliban militant group, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday.
“We have seen Russian activity vis- à-vis the Taliban,” Mattis said during a news conference with his UK counterpart Sir Michael Fallon in London,” I’m not going to say at this point if that has manifested into weapons and that sort of thing, but certainly what they’re up to there in light of their other activities gives us concern.”
Mattis has described Russia as a “strategic competitor”, adding the United States is looking to engage with Russia on a political or diplomatic level and “assuming Russia can change its behavior and act in accordance with international norms and international law”.
On a question about more U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon chief said he had not made a decision yet to recommend an increase in U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan.
At the same time, the UK says there is a path of interference by Russia in different parts, but “we’re not going to return to combat in Afghanistan”.
The comments come after a U.S. general recently said that he had seen evidence of increasing Russian efforts to influence the Taliban and maybe arming the militant group in Afghanistan.
Moscow denies it provides aid to the Taliban, which is fighting the U.S.-backed government and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
By Waris Nayel & Hesamuddin Hesam