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Iran Press TV

Russia trying to 'publicly legitimize the Taliban': US commander

Iran Press TV

Thu Feb 9, 2017 8:55PM

The commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan has accused Russia of trying to undermine the United States in the country by attempting to "publicly legitimize the Taliban."

"The Russian involvement this year has become more difficult," US Army General John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

"This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting" Daesh (ISIL) and the Afghan government is not combating the terrorist group "and therefore there can be a spillover of this group into the region," Nicholson added.

"This is a false narrative," he said, claiming that US-trained Afghan forces, along with American troops, have reduced Daesh fighters in Afghanistan by half.

He said the Russian government recently invited the Taliban to Moscow for meetings about the country's future but excluded representatives from the Afghan government.

The top military commander also said he needs a few thousand more troops to properly train the Afghan military.

"In my train-advise-assist mission, however, we have a shortfall of a few thousand. And this is in the NATO train-advise-assist mission, so this could come from the U.S. and its allies," Nicholson said while answering a question from Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Russia has denied providing any aid to the Taliban. Moscow has said its limited contacts with the militants are aimed at bringing the group to the negotiating table.

'We're in a stalemate in Afghanistan'

Is the United States winning or losing in Afghanistan? McCain asked Nicholson.

"Mr. Chairman, I believe we're in a stalemate," Nicholson replied.

The United States -- under Republican George W. Bush's presidency -- and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington's so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after more than one and-a-half-decade, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.

After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war -- one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.

US President Donald Trump, who speaks against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as "Obama's war".

There are currently about 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan. According to US officials, Washington would also maintain a large counterterrorism capability of terror drones and Special Operations Forces to fight militants in Afghanistan.

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