According to an exclusive BBC interview with General John Nicholson, the head of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Russia is arming the Taliban. Very few people have the kind of inside knowledge Nicholson has, so it’s worth taking his words seriously. Nicholson said:
“He believes this direct Russian involvement with the Taliban is relatively new. He says Russia has conducted a series of exercises on the Afghan border with Tajikistan. ‘These are counter terrorism exercises. but we’ve seen the Russian patterns before: they bring in large amounts of equipment and then they leave some of it behind.'”
Although, even though the general claims to be sure that the Russians are involved, he admitted that claims of scale are hard to make. According to Nicholson, the activity:
“…Really picked up in the last 18 to 24 months.”
According to the report, Nicholson’s career has largely been shaped by the events of September 11, when he narrowly escaped death when his office in the Pentagon was destroyed by one of the hijacked planes.
The way Nicholson believes the Russians are arming the Taliban is with training exercises, bringing more equipment than they need, and leaving it behind. This gives them plausible deniability but allows them to aid an abet a brutal regime.
As far as what the Russians are giving away, Nicholson also had a few ideas:
“The general admits it is hard to quantify how much support Russia is actually giving the Taliban, but senior Afghan police officers and military figures have told the BBC that it includes night vision goggles, medium and heavy machine guns as well as small arms.”
According to BBC, Nicholson did not directly answer the question of whether he thought Russia was fighting a proxy war with the United States in Afghanistan.