'Ambiguous role': Did Russia, Iran supply Taliban fighters with weapons against US troops?

A report claimed Iranian-made armaments were discovered in the hands of Taliban fighters.

Taliban's arsenal

According to a survey, the Taliban thrived on "illicit small arms" and light weapons in Afghanistan with the "rocket-propelled grenade"(RPGs) creating havoc among US forces in Afghanistan.

The small arms survey in its report said the Taliban’s weapons appeared to be "technologically sophisticated game-changers comparable to the Stinger".

RPGs and other light seized light weapons were first introduced in Afghanistan several decades ago as the United States supplied thousands of weapons to the Mujahideen in the 1980s.

The Taliban also benefitted from thousands of more weapons acquired from the former Soviet Union as it left the county.


Taliban's MANPADS & anti-tank missiles

A US Defense Department data claimed US troops had seized 319 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in 2002 as the Taliban resistance against the US began.

Reports said Man-portable air-defense systems(MANPADS) were also seized by the US. The missiles included first-generation Chinese HN-5 missiles as MANPADS continued to circulate in Afghanistan.

The coalition forces had also seized "illicit" anti-tank missiles. The Taliban had reportedly also acquired MILAN antitank missiles which was displayed in a Taliban propaganda video released in December 2010. However, the origin of the missiles is unclear, the arms survey noted.


US raised concern over Russian help to Taliban

As evidenced by the data on the seized caches, the number and types of modern, technologically sophisticated light weapons accessible to armed groups in Afghanistan appear to be very limited, the small arms report said.

AK-47s, RPGs, heavy machine guns, mortars and other weapons were the prime weapons in the Taliban's arsenal. 

A Wall Street Journal report quoting a classified American intelligence assessment had said that a Russian spy unit had paid members of the Taliban to conduct lethal attacks on US troops.

The WSJ report said US officials in 2017 had expressed concern over small arms provided by the Russian government including machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons.

It is interesting to note the Russians were beaten by the Afghan Mujahideen forces and were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan in the 80s.


'We have seen Russian activity vis-a-vis the Taliban'

In fact, former US defence secretary Jim Mattis under the Trump administration had expressed concern over Russian activities in Afghanistan and the help it provided to the Taliban.

"We have seen Russian activity vis-a-vis the Taliban," Mattis had said openly in a press conference.  

US General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO's former supreme allied commander in Europe had told a US Senate committee that he had seen evidence of increasing Russian efforts to influence the Taliban.


'Russia is not interested in the disintegration of Afghanistan'

Russia however has consistently denied it aided the Taliban. A few days ago Russian President Vladimir Putin had said he hoped the Taliban will behave in a "civilised" manner in Afghanistan.

"Russia is not interested in the disintegration of Afghanistan. If this happens, then there will be no one to talk to," Putin said, adding, "the sooner the Taliban will enter the family of civilised people, so to speak, the easier it will be to contact, communicate, and somehow influence and ask questions."

Putin said the Americans spent over $1.5 trillion on the Afghanistan campaign but did not get any results. 

Russia had earlier allowed its embassy to function in Kabul even as several Western countries pulled out of the region. Russia's ambassador in Kabul had also met with representatives of the Taliban after it had taken control over the Afghan capital.


Iran’s 'ambiguous role' in Afghanistan

A report published by Combating Terrorism Center at West Point said Iranian-made armaments were discovered in the hands of Taliban fighters.

The report claimed General Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan had cited Iran’s “ambiguous role” in Afghanistan in a 2009 report. The report said Iran allowed weapons to pass into the hands of the Taliban.

Former US defence secretary Robert Gates had also accused Iran of playing a “double game” in Afghanistan.

General McChrystal had said: "Iran plays an ambiguous role in Afghanistan, providing developmental assistance and political support to GIRoA while the Iranian Qods Force is reportedly training fighters for certain Taliban group."


44 bricks of Iranian-made explosives found

McChrystal further said Iran had also provided "other forms" of military assistance to the Taliban.

"Iran’s current policies and actions do not pose a short-term threat to the mission, but Iran has the capability to threaten the mission in the future,” the US General had warned.

As NATO forces conducted “Operation Moshtarak,” a counterinsurgency operation with British, American and Afghan forces, the coalition forces found "44 bricks of Iranian-made explosives and dozens of Iranian-made mortars" in May 2009 in Marja.

Iranian weapons were said to have been found in Helmand where Taliban and NATO forces battled each other, the Combating Terrorism Centre said.


Taliban now has high tech US arms

America's campaign in Afghanistan ended disastrously as the Taliban took control of the county. Worse still was the huge cache of arms and ammunition which the Taliban was able to annex from the retreating US troops.

The Taliban seized planes, guns and night-vision goggles from the US as it seeks to now build its own army after taking control over the country.

The militant group reportedly now has 2,000 armoured vehicles, including US Humvees, 40 aircraft including UH-60 Black Hawks and other helicopters including ScanEagle military drones.

According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), it had provided Afghan forces with 208 aircraft between  2003 and 2016 and had given weapons worth $28 billion.

The US had also provided 600,000 infantry weapons including M16 assault rifles, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, and 16,000 night-vision goggle devices.


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