Afghan Lawmakers: Russian Support to Taliban No Secret

Amid controversy in Washington over reports that a Russian intelligence unit paid bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, some Afghan lawmakers say it is no secret Russia has cultivated close contacts with the Taliban and it is likely Russia has financially supported Taliban violence.Shinkai Karokhail, a member of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament, told VOA, "It is thought that Russia has been supporting the Taliban, and it has provided the Taliban with the means so that the war, the U.S. engagement, in Afghanistan continues.”Karokhail said media reports about the Russian bounties needed to be investigated. She added, however, it is plausible that the Taliban receive financial support from other countries in the region.FILE- Afghan security forces take position during a gunbattle between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Laghman province, Afghanistan, March 1, 2017.“To continue fighting, the Taliban need money, and for sure, countries such as Russia, Pakistan, Iran and others would be providing them money,” she said.Gulalai Sapi, an Afghan senator, said Russia and some other regional powers do not see their interests in the peace process in Afghanistan.“Some countries may not want this process to be implemented as soon as possible because war in Afghanistan is in their interest,” she said.Last week, The New York Times, citing anonymous U.S. intelligence sources, reported that a Russian intelligence unit offered bounties to the Taliban for killing American and coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. The newspaper said U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed on the issue.Senior U.S. intelligence officials briefed a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers Thursday after members of Congress called for additional information on the issue.Russia and the Taliban have rejected the allegations, and the Afghan government has declined to comment despite several requests to the country’s presidential office and the national security council.Russia-Taliban relationsSim Tack, a military analyst with the Stratfor global intelligence firm, told VOA he was not surprised that Russian intelligence would be “trying to encourage them [the Taliban] to target coalition forces in any way.”Tack said Russia’s interest is in building relations with the Taliban “as a way to ensure Russian influence in a post-U.S. Afghanistan.”He added that “if Russia is able to build a cooperative relationship with the Taliban at this point, then that definitely will help them carry a greater role in Afghanistan in the future.”FILE - Participants attend a conference on Afghanistan bringing ...