Is Russia arming the Afghan Taliban?

Media captionGen John Nicholson: “We know that the Russians are involved”

The US accuses Russia of trying to destabilise Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban. Senior US officials have been saying for months that Moscow is even supplying the militants with weapons.

Russia and the Taliban, who are historic foes, deny the charges. They come amid what some observers see as a “new Cold War” – so how much truth is there to the US claims?

What is the US alleging?

In a BBC interview in late March, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson alleged that Russian weapons were being smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban.

He accused Russia of exaggerating the number of Islamic State (IS) fighters in Afghanistan “to legitimise the actions of the Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban”.

“We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and [they] said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban,” he said.

Some Afghan police and military officials told the BBC that the Russian military equipment includes night-vision goggles, medium and heavy machine guns, and small arms.

Who agrees?

US officials have accused Moscow of supporting the Taliban for more than a year. In December 2016 Gen Nicholson criticised Russia and Iran for establishing links with the Taliban and…

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