In the 1980s, the Soviet Union was fighting a war in Afghanistan. The United States saw a chance here to repay the Soviets for supporting the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War and shipped aid to rebels fighting the Soviet-backed government. Now, in what seems to be a continuation of this endless cycle of tit-for-tat, Russia is allegedly providing support to the Taliban fighting an American-backed government.
According to a report by the BBC, the commander of United States Forces – Afghanistan, Army General John W. Nicholson, Jr., has accused Russia of supporting the Taliban with weapons. While other American and NATO officials, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis, have demurred, Nicholson’s accusation came during a March interview with the BBC, making it very high profile.
Taliban border guard with an AK-47.
Russia has claimed the United States has supported the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the past, mostly through the provisioning of support to Syrian rebels. The United States has denied such charges.
Reportedly, the Taliban have been trying to build relations with countries who have geopolitical rivalries with or grudges against the United States. This is all happening at a time where it seems Russia and the United States are sliding towards a new Cold War: The United States recently armed Georgia and Ukraine with FGM-148 Javelin missiles while Russia has buzzed American aircraft and ships on multiple occasions.
The alleged Russian support to the Taliban is consists primarily of small arms and machine guns.
(Photo from Israel Defense Force)
Russia has long viewed the Taliban as hostile and has supplied groups in Afghanistan that fought the radical Islamic terrorist group, but relations improved when an ISIS affiliate known as Khorasan set up shop in Afghanistan. The aid the Taliban has allegedly received consists of small arms, like the AK-47, medium machine guns, like the PKM, and heavy machine guns, like the DShK.
The Taliban have also reached out to China, which is in constant conflict with the United States over maritime claims in the South China Sea. Iran has also reportedly been contacted by the Taliban, which may be seeking to benefit from nearly four decades of hostility between the United States and the state sponsor of terrorist groups like Hezbollah.