Afghan spymaster claims Russia, Iran are assisting Taliban

In this file photo, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai speaks during an interview in Kabul December 31, 2012. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Afghan spymaster claims Russia, Iran are assisting Taliban

KABUL: The head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency, Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai, claimed over the weekend that Russia and Iran are aiding the Taliban.
The militant group is currently regaining its grip on the country, with the BBC reporting last week that it is now openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan — “much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014.”
“There is evidence that Russia and Iran are somehow helping the Taliban, but not to the extent that the propaganda reports claim,” Stanekzai told the BBC’s Dari service in an interview this week.
Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters this week that Iran is not interfering in Afghanistan’s “internal affairs.”
The Russian Embassy in Kabul did not respond to Arab News’ requests for comment.
Moscow has, in the past, confirmed ties with the Taliban, but claims it maintains that relationship solely to safeguard Russian nationals in Afghanistan and in the hope of restarting stalled Afghan peace talks.
Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Moscow and Tehran of providing both money and weaponry to the Taliban. However, Stanekzai is the first high-level government official to publicly accuse them of supporting the insurgents.
The emergence of Daesh in Afghanistan and its expansion in pockets of northern areas in recent months has been a source of concern not just for Afghans, but also for regional players, including Russia and Iran.
Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Russia’s Sputnik news agency at the end of last year that pro-Daesh militants fleeing Iraq and Syria were entering Afghanistan.
Members of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission told Arab News at the time that it had no evidence of the migration of foreign fighters into Afghanistan from Syria or Iraq.


Attack on UN base in Mali kills 8 peacekeepers: UN source

Updated 52 min 55 sec ago
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Attack on UN base in Mali kills 8 peacekeepers: UN source

  • An attack at the same UN base last April killed two peacekeepers and left several others wounded
  • The Bamako government and armed groups signed a peace agreement in 2015 to restore stability

BAMAKO, Mali: Gunmen killed at least eight Chadian UN peacekeepers in an attack Sunday on one of their bases in northern Mali, a source close to the MINUSMA force said.
“According to a new toll, still provisional, at least eight peacekeepers have been killed,” the source said.
The attack happened early Sunday at the Aguelhok base 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Kidal and toward the border with Algeria, the source added.
A Malian security source spoke of at least six killed and 19 wounded, while a diplomat in northern Mali told AFP that several of the attackers were also killed.
An attack at the same base last April killed two peacekeepers and left several others wounded.
More than 13,000 peacekeepers are deployed in Mali as part of a UN mission that was established after Islamist militias seized northern Mali in 2012. They were pushed backed by French troops in 2013.
A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability to Mali following a brief Islamist takeover in the north.
But the accord has failed to stop violence by Islamist militants, who have also staged attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger.
Earlier this month, both France and the United States criticized the authorities in Mali for their failure to stem the worsening violence.