WASHINGTON: As the Trump administration continues advocating for a peace process in Afghanistan, U.S. officials are accusing the Russian government of hindering their efforts. Moscow has increased its support for the Taliban over the last year and a half amid decaying U.S.-Russia relations, according to administration officials.
Russian support for the Taliban, which has been at war with U.S.-led coalition forces since 2001, includes the sharing of sensitive intelligence data.
“It’s not an area of cooperation for them yet,” explained a senior State Department official of Russia’s failure to work with the U.S. in Afghanistan. The country is an area where Russia “can make points” about their displeasure with general state of bilateral relations.
As a result, the official indicated that Moscow is holding peace in Afghanistan hostage as their bilateral relations with the U.S. grow more toxic. Just last week, the U.S. slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. also said that Russian operatives assaulted the U.S. electrical grid. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is still a target of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
The U.S. hopes to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Afghanistan. When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis traveled to Afghanistan last week, he indicated that “small groups” of the Taliban have shown a willingness to partake in talks with the Afghan government.
“You don’t want to miss an opportunity, because you weren’t alert to the opportunity. So you need to have that door open even if you increase the military pressure,” said Mattis when asked if discussion of talks with the Taliban were premature.—INP