According to The Times, Russia is reportedly funding Taliban military operations in Afghanistan through a covert program of laundered fuel sales. The information allegedly came from members of the Taliban and Afghan officials.
The report said that Russia’s intelligence services are sending fuel tankers into the country through the Hairatan border crossing with Uzbekistan to companies operating on behalf of the Taliban.
According to The Times’ sources, about $2.5 million per month is raised from the sale of this fuel which is then delivered directly to insurgent paymasters. The report claims that Russia has accelerated its support in recent months in an apparent attempt to bolster the Taliban against ISIS militants.
“We sell the fuel on and distribute the money directly to our commanders,” a Taliban treasurer from Ghazni province told The Times. He had been authorized to speak to a journalist as part of the Taliban’s efforts to advertise its relationship with international backers, in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to send in more troops. “Accepting money from the Russians is not something we like doing,” the Taliban treasurer said, “but it is necessary at this stage of our jihad.”
Afghan defense ministry replied to the report by saying that Russia needs to support the Afghan government. “It is not correct. If Russia has done this or not, it is not correct and it is нnot in favor of Russia also. Russia is a friend to Afghanistan, not an enemy and it should support Afghan security and defense forces,” defense ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said.
A number of parliament members meanwhile said Russia is trying to take over the management of war in the region. “Russia wants to control the war in the region, but Afghanistan’s enemies should not be strengthened through a proxy war and the Afghan people should not suffer because of their war,” politician Naheed Farid said.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the allegations, calling them a distraction “aimed at drawing international attention away from the failure of NATO’s military policy in Afghanistan.”
This report comes as at least 43 servicemen were killed in an attack targeting a military base in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, according to Afghan defense ministry.
The attack began with a suicide car bomb and was followed by an assault that overran the base. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the ministry, said that the attack killed at least 60 Afghan soldiers and injured many more. At least ten Taliban were also killed in the attack.
This comes days after similar attacks occurred in Paktia and Ghazni provinces which left at least 70 people dead and dozens of others injured.
Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations of supporting the Taliban. Former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai also denied Russia’s involvement with the Taliban, calling the accusations “untrue”.
“Since the beginning of the US operations in Afghanistan Russia has never supported the Taliban,” he said. He also added that if Russia did start negotiating with the Taliban, the US were the ones to be held responsible, as their presence in Afghanistan did not stop the terrorists, but only bolstered them.