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New US Afghan strategy for Afghanistan regrettable: Russia FM

Russia’s foreign minister called the new US strategy for Afghanistan regrettable Thursday, saying the blueprint unveiled by President Donald Trump was a “futile course”.

Speaking at a press-conference in Moscow, minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia has expressed “regret that the main focus of the new (Afghanistan) strategy announced by Washington is regulation by methods of force.”

“We are certain this is a futile course,” he said, furthermore rejecting suggestions that Moscow was behind supplying the Taliban.

Trump this week announced 4,000 new troops for deployment to Afghanistan, backtracking from his earlier promise to end America’s longest war, though other specifics of the plan remain unclear.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson furthermore on Tuesday suggested Moscow is arming the Taliban. “To the extent Russia is supplying arms to the Taliban, that is a violation, obviously, of international norms,” he said.

“It’s not the first time we are accused of supporting and even arming the Taliban,” Lavrov said. “Not one fact has been presented” to support this.

Earlier this year, a similar allegation was made by NATO commander Curtis Scaparrotti, who said Moscow is assisting and possibly supplying the Taliban and its influence is growing in Afghanistan.

Lavrov said Moscow only contacts the Taliban for two things: ensuring safety of Russian citizens in Afghanistan and pushing the Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government.

The resurgent Taliban is an officially banned organisation recognised as a terrorist group in Russia but some Russian officials have said Moscow is exchanging information with the group when it comes to fighting Islamic State jihadists.

Moscow fought a disastrous military campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s which was widely considered a factor in the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse. – AFP/UNS

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