Mattis: Russian Actions in Afghanistan Are a ‘Concern’

Says Not Sure What Russians 'Are Up to There'

by Jason Ditz, March 31, 2017

Speaking today in London, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US has “concern” about Russian activity “vis-a-vis the Taliban,” saying that he isn’t sure “what they’re up to,” but that’s of concern because the US has objected to other Russian activities elsewhere.

This is something other Pentagon officials have also played up in recent days, though Mattis’ allegations are well short of Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti’s claims of Russia providing supplies to the Taliban, and Mattis conceded that he wasn’t sure at this point if it involved “that sort of thing.”

Russia has confirmed making come contact with the Taliban and other factions in Afghanistan in recent months, in an effort to broker peace talks, and to try to put together a broad anti-ISIS coalition as ISIS presence in the country increases. They have denied sending them any provisions, however.

It would be unlikely for Russia to provide equipment to the Taliban too, as they’ve backed the US and NATO occupation since 2001, and fought against materially the same insurgency during the failed Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s. Still, the fact that it’s Russia has Pentagon officials expecting the worst, likely in part because hinting at the worst is a good way to sell increased military involvement.

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