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.


Afghanistan announces Muslim Eid holiday cease-fire with Taliban

Updated 19 August 2018
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Afghanistan announces Muslim Eid holiday cease-fire with Taliban

  • “We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long-lasting and real peace,” President Ashraf Ghani said
  • Ghani’s cease-fire announcement was limited to the Taliban and excluded other militant groups such as Daesh

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday announced a cease-fire with Taliban insurgents from Monday to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Adha holiday, despite the heavy fighting seen over recent days in the central city of Ghazni.
“The conditional cease-fire will start tomorrow and it will continue as long as the Taliban preserves and respects it,” he said in an Afghan Independence Day ceremony in Kabul.
“We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long-lasting and real peace,” he said.
A senior official in Ghani’s office said the “conditional” cease-fire would run for three months.
It was not immediately clear whether the Taliban had accepted Ghani’s call for a truce during Eid, the annual Islamic feast of sacrifice, which officially begins on Tuesday.
This month the Taliban fought an intense battle with Afghan forces to control the strategically important city of Ghazni.
At least 150 soldiers and 95 civilians were killed in a five-day siege, which eased last week when Afghan soldiers backed by US forces pushed back the heavily armed rebels.
The Taliban said in a statement that they had control over half of Afghanistan.
Blasts, suicide attacks and clashes between hard-line Islamic militants and Afghan forces killed over 1,600 civilians in the first six months of the year, the highest number in the past decade, the United Nations said in a statement on Sunday.
Ghani’s cease-fire announcement was limited to the Taliban and excluded other militant groups such as Daesh.