March 17, 2017
ISLAMABAD — Afghanistan’s national security adviser met Friday with senior officials in Russia to discuss counterterrorism cooperation and efforts to promote peace as Taliban insurgents staged fresh deadly attacks in Afghanistan.
The high-level talks came amid growing concerns over Russia’s contacts and alleged military assistance to the Taliban to enable the group to fight and contain Islamic State influence in Afghanistan. The two militant groups have regularly clashed in areas where Afghan forces have limited control.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, however, in talks with national security adviser Haneef Atmar, assured him that Moscow is working only to promote stability in Afghanistan.
“Our recent contacts with the armed opposition [Taliban] are aimed only at encouraging the group to join the Afghan government-led peace process,” Atmar’s spokesman, Tawab Ghorzang, quoted the Patrushev as telling the Afghan delegation in Friday’s meeting.
Moscow as ‘important political ally’
Ghorzang said the Afghan government welcomed “the Russian explanation and stance” and reiterated that Moscow is “an important political ally” of Kabul. He added the two sides also shared concerns stemming from a rise in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and agreed to boost cooperation to curb narcotics production and smuggling.
Russia believes IS militants are trying to establish a foothold in volatile Afghan regions bordering Central Asian states threatening Moscow’s national security interests.
But Afghan authorities say national security forces with air support from the United States have killed hundreds of IS operatives and significantly degraded the terrorist threat in the country.
New Taliban attacks
Friday’s talks in Moscow came on a day when the Taliban staged fresh attacks in different parts of Afghanistan and security forces carried out new raids against IS militants.
Officials said that a suicide truck bomber attacked an Afghan military base in southeastern Khost province, killing at least one soldier and wounding 13 others. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the violence, giving a much higher death toll for Afghan forces.
The insurgents staged a similar attack in eastern Nangarhar province, killing one person and wounding several others.
The Taliban also ambushed a government convoy on a main highway linking the northern provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan, and reportedly set fire to tankers transporting fuel for security forces. The attack blocked traffic, stranding scores of vehicles, Afghan authorities reported.
Separately, military authorities in eastern Nangarhar province said that security forces, with U.S. air support, killed at least 40 IS militants in overnight operations in Kot, one of several districts where the terrorist group has its bases.