Russia is cooperating with the Taliban to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Afghanistan, Interfax news agency reports, citing a senior Russian diplomat.
Zamir Kabulov, a department chief at Russia’s Foreign Ministry and President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy on Afghanistan, was quoted by Interfax as saying that Russia’s interests against ISIS in Afghanistan “objectively coincide” with those of the Taliban, according to The Moscow Times and other news outlets.
“Russia has established communication channels to exchange information with the Taliban,” the Russian official reportedly told Interfax.
He added that Russia is willing to supply weapons to Afghanistan, but only “with caution and on a commercial basis.”
Russian is helping to strengthen the U.S.-trained Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which includes army, police, and militia units, indicated Kabulov in October.
“Russia is already providing certain assistance in strengthening the capabilities of the Afghan government forces,” said Kabulov, Khaama Press reported, citing Russian local media.
The number of ISIS supporters in Afghanistan is growing, according to the Pentagon and Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in the country.
Gen. Campbell noted that the ISIS loyalists have expressed a desire to attack the United States and Europe.
“They don’t have the capability right now to attack Europe, or attack the homeland, the United States, but that’s what they want to do, they’ve said that’s what they want to do,” acknowledged Campbell in an interview with the Associated Press (AP).
A Pentagon report released last week asserts that the Islamic State (IS) branch in Afghanistan—Khorasan Province (IS-KP)—has become “more operationally active” there by conquering territory and openly engaging the Taliban in turf battles.
Khorasan is an ancient name that covers parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, and other surrounding countries.
IS-KP “has progressed from its initial exploratory phase to a point where they are openly fighting the Taliban for the establishment of a safe haven, and are becoming more operationally active,” says the Department of Defense (DOD) report.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), the chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare who recently visited Afghanistan, echoed both Campbell and the Pentagon report, warning that ISIS in Afghanistan is growing.
Gen. Campbell noted that “foreign fighters” from Syria and Iraq have linked up with the ISIS supporters, adding that there are “indications” that branch is trying to consolidate ties with the jihadist group’s leadership in Syria and Iraq.
ISIS in Afghanistan is growing by recruiting “disaffected Taliban” and others, according to the top U.S. general.
Militants from the ethnic Uzbek minority in Afghanistan have been linked to ISIS.
A United Nations report released in September revealed that ISIS is expanding its presence in Afghanistan, actively recruiting supporters in nearly three-quarters (25) of the country’s 34 provinces.
In October, Kabulov, Putin’s special envoy in Afghanistan, said there were nearly 3,500 ISIS-linked jihadists in Afghanistan, adding that the number was growing.