Russia trying to 'undercut' progress: US

2018-09-03T02:35:42+05:00 Monitoring Desk

Washington  -  Russia is not giving up on efforts to destabilise Afghanistan and drive divisions between the United States and its coalition partners, US commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nichloson told VOA.

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Nicholson, who relinquishes command on Sunday, cast doubts on Russia's intentions in the region, despite recent overtures from Moscow to help the Taliban reconcile with the Afghan government.

"We know that Russia is attempting to undercut our military gains and years of progress in Afghanistan, and make partners question Afghanistan's stability," Nicholson said in an email to Voice of America.

"It is no secret that Russia seeks any opportunity it can find to drive a wedge between the United States and our Central Asian partners, including Afghanistan," Nicholson added.

The US and Afghan officials have previously accused Russia of meddling in Afghanistan by providing Taliban insurgents with both weapons and training. Moscow has rejected the allegations, saying it has only political ties with the Taliban.

Still, Russia has faced growing suspicion from the US and its allies, who say the Kremlin has been increasingly working to expand its influence in Afghanistan and beyond.

Most recently, the US and Russia have been competing over efforts to kick-start peace negotiations between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government.

Russia was set to host both parties, along with the US and other countries, for talks starting September 4, but was forced to postpone after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declined the invitation.

The US also has been hoping for talks between the government and the Taliban.

"We talk about an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process," US Defence Secretary James Mattis said during a briefing with reporters last week. "We believe that the best way to get there is to ensure Taliban recognise they can't win on the battlefield, they must negotiate."

But while US officials have touted what they see are signs of progress, including increased support for a peace process from various sectors of the Afghan population, the government's recent ceasefire offer to the Taliban appears to have fallen on deaf ears, VOA reported.

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