Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, testified today that Russia is helping the Taliban. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia has been publicly legitimizing the Taliban by claiming that it fights Islamic terrorists while the Afghan government does not.
At the hearing, Nicholson declined to say whether Russia is providing material support — e.g., arms, training, etc. — for the Taliban (who, themselves, are Islamic terrorists). Later, he explained that addressing this question would require reference to classified intelligence.
If Russia is confining itself to talking up the Taliban, that’s bad enough. Such talk undermines the U.S. and NATO as it attempts to stave off these terrorists.
If Russia is aiding the Taliban in more concrete ways, the U.S. needs to retaliate. We have more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan. They conduct counterterrorism operations against Taliban insurgents and train the Afghan army.
Americans are still dying at the hands of the Taliban. Indeed, within the past week, a U.S. special forces soldier was severely wounded in fighting Thursday in southern Afghanistan.
Liberal talking points notwithstanding, President Trump has not shown himself to be pro-Russia. He says he’s waiting to see how he gets along with Vladimir Putin and I see no evidence of a tilt towards Russia.
It’s understandable that Trump would take a wait-and-see approach. But our stance towards Russia should be based less on the personal relationship and more on how Putin behaves. Presumably the two things will be related, but they are not the same.
If reliable information shows that Russia is backing the Taliban militarily, it will be time for Trump to get off the fence and support our troops by doing whatever it takes to make the Russians reverse this policy.