US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said that Washington “will confront Russia” after a top US military commander claimed Moscow is “sending weapons” to the Taliban. No specifics or evidence were provided to support the claims which Moscow has previously denied.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Mattis in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday, the head of the US and international forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson said the US “continue to get reports of this [Russia’s] assistance” to Taliban insurgents.
The NATO commander, who Mattis praised as “one of our most experienced officers in the field and one of our most serious strategic thinkers,” was asked “to address the influx of Russian weapons into Afghanistan and showing up in Taliban hands” by a journalist from the Washington Post.
The general didn’t exactly answer the question of what the Pentagon was “going to do to stop the Russians from sending these weapons,” but said he was “not refuting” the accusation.
Earlier in the day, a senior US military official speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters in Kabul there was intelligence data suggesting Moscow is allegedly providing machine guns and other medium-weight weapons to the Taliban, AP reported.
Addressing the issue at the briefing, Mattis said Washington “will engage with Russia diplomatically,” and is “going to have to confront Russia, where what they’re doing is contradictory to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries.”
“Any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law,” the US Defense Secretary, who is in Afghanistan to talk to President Ghani and his ministers “directly and at length” after President Trump “directed a review of [US] policy in Afghanistan,” added.