No Evidence Russia Turning to Taliban for Arms, White House Says

Russia may be turning to more countries to replace its military fighting in Ukraine, but the White House says it has no evidence to support published reports claiming Moscow has asked the Afghan Taliban for help.

“I cannot confirm this report,” John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council, told VOA during a briefing Friday. “But if it is true, it would certainly run counter to what the Taliban say in their goals,” he said, pointing out that the Taliban want to be recognized internationally as a government legitimate Afghanistan.

A 2022 Pentagon report confirmed that the fall of the US-backed Afghan government following the chaotic August 2021 withdrawal of Western forces gave Taliban fighters access to more than $7 billion worth of American military equipment, which was left worth $18.6 billion of arms and others. equipment provided to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces from 2005 to August 2021.

The stockpile includes aircraft, vehicles, munitions, guns, communications equipment and other equipment that Kirby and other officials emphasized belonged to the now-defunct Afghan government, rather than the United States. Most of the equipment used by American troops in Afghanistan has been downgraded or destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

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“We have no indication of exactly where all those systems are [in Taliban hands] than, how they are used,” said Kirby. “Certainly, we have no indication that the Taliban is willing to export them.”

Zia Ahmad Takal, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied that the Taliban is supplying Russia with weapons. “This report is a lie,” he told VOA.

An attractive target

American weapons now in the hands of the Taliban are an attractive target for various actors looking for firepower.

“You’re going to have a lot of outside actors trying to walk around and get access to all these weapons,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, a global policy research group in Washington.

“Whether the Taliban would be willing to supply Russia with these weapons, it seems a little hard for me to believe,” he told VOA.

While an offer from Moscow cannot be ruled out, Kugelman said the Taliban are focused on developing their own military capabilities. The group faces internal security threats from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group and others, including the National Resistance Front.

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In addition, the Taliban’s arsenal may not be of much use to President Vladimir Putin’s war ambitions, since there are few weapons that would be useful in the war in Ukraine, where Russia relies heavily on long-range attacks using unguided weapons, such as howitzers. and artillery rockets.

The missiles Moscow needs most are Soviet-quality missiles and artillery ammunition, neither of which the United States has left in Afghanistan, said Mark Cancian, senior adviser to the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic Studies. and International, a think tank in Washington.

“Most of the weaponry left by the United States is probably inoperable and badly deteriorated due to a lack of trained maintainers and spare parts,” Cancian told VOA. “This is especially true for complex weapons such as helicopters or tanks, even those of Soviet caliber.”

Moscow may be able to use military helicopters, including the Soviet-designed Mi-17 currently in possession of the Taliban, as well as a limited number of American-made black hawks and light aircraft, but few there is a chance.

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“Why would they give them up?” said Jonathan Schroden, director of the Program to Combat Threats and Challenges at the Center for Naval Analysts in Arlington County, Virginia. “They would be giving up most of their air capacity, and I don’t see it being in the Taliban’s interest to do that.”

Schroden said the rest of the equipment, including Humvees, machine guns and ammunition, is not necessarily compatible with Russian logistics and maintenance capabilities.

“I don’t understand why they would add that level of difficulty to what they’re already dealing with,” he said.

Nearly a year after invading Ukraine, Moscow has turned to other states, including Iran and North Korea, to bolster its military.

Washington has sanctioned Tehran for supplying Moscow with Iranian-made drones and is seeking sanctions on North Korea for supplying the Russian mercenary group Wagner for use in Ukraine.

Tehran has said the drones were launched before the Russian invasion in February, and Moscow has denied its forces use of Iranian drones in Ukraine. North Korea and Wagner have also rejected the US allegations.

Sayed Aziz Rahman contributed to this report.


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