There's been lots in the news about Russia lately, and a high-ranking US Army general just added to the mix—this time regarding the country's involvement with the Taliban. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the supreme allied commander of Europe for NATO, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that he's noticed an uptick in Russian influence on the insurgent group in Afghanistan, and he raised the possibility that Moscow is giving the group supplies, reports Reuters. Russia and the Taliban deflected any insinuation that their relationship has ventured into equipment provisions, with Taliban officials telling Reuters that Russia has offered only "moral and political support." As for Russia's take on a possible supply chain: "Absolutely false," a Russian Foreign Ministry rep told RIA Novosti, via the Tasnim Iranian news agency.
As Stars and Stripes notes, Russia has tried to evade full-on criticism for its Taliban rapport by claiming the militants are going after ISIS, not Afghani forces. However, Army Gen. John Nicholson, in charge of US forces in Afghanistan, has said he rejects the "public legitimacy" that Russia tries to impart on the Taliban. NBC News reports that Scaparrotti's theory comes just hours after reports that the Taliban had taken hold Thursday of the district center of the "hotly contested town" of Sangin, although that hasn't been confirmed. Scaparrotti didn't offer any elaboration on what provisions he thinks may have been offered by the Russians, or when this supposed handover may have taken place.