“They (Russia) are attempting to be an influential third party here in Afghanistan,” General Joselg L Votel, Commander of US Central Command, told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing. This is not a good development, and against American interest, the general told lawmakers. Votel also expressed concern over reports of Russians supplying weapons to the Taliban.
“I think that it is fair to assume they (Russians) may be providing some kind of support to them (Taliban) in terms of weapons or other things that may be there. Again, I think that is the possibility.
“I believe what Russia is attempting to do is they are attempting to be an influential party in this part of the world. Obviously they do have some concerns because it is close to former Soviet states that they consider to be within their sphere so there is some concern about that,” Votel said. “They are reaching out to the Taliban and they have made the decision under their own determination that the government of Afghanistan and the coalition that supports them is unable to solve the concern about ISIS. They are much more concerned about ISIS and the potential that has to move into the Central Asian states and potentially have an impact on them.
“They have created a narrative that you really have to partner more with the Taliban to address this particular threat and they are trying to leverage that into a bigger role in terms of trying to pursue peace agreements and other things with the Taliban,” he said.
Votel said he does not consider it to be particularly helpful at this particular point to what the US has been doing and the process that they have been using. “In general, I do not consider their outreach and linkage to the Taliban to be helpful to what the coalition has been trying to accomplish for some time now in Afghanistan,” Votel said, responding to a question from Congresswoman Susan Davis.
“What kinds of support are the Russians sending to the Taliban? And how direct is their involvement? What does that mean about our ongoing conflict there?” she asked. “Congresswoman, I think there is a lot that we do not know about what Russia is doing,” Votel said. The White House refused to comment on Votel’s remarks. “General’s comment stands for itself,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.