The US will confront Russia if it goes against international law, the US Secretary of Defence James Mattis said in the capital Kabul on Monday, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.
Mattis made his unannounced trip to Afghanistan at a time when the Afghan army chief and defence minister were sacked following Friday’s deadly attack on a military base in northern Mazar-e-Sharif city that left 140 Afghan soldiers dead.
Replying to a reporter’s question about reports on alleged influx of Russian arms into Afghanistan for the Taliban, the defence secretary said: “We will engage with Russia diplomatically, we will do so where we can, but we are going to have to confront Russia where what they are doing is contrary to the international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries, for example, any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be violation of international law.”
The US top commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson also accompanied Mattis.
Nicholson said there were reports about such Russian “assistance” to the Taliban.
“We support anyone who wants to help us advance the reconciliation process, but arming belligerence or legitimising belligerence who perpetuate attacks like we saw two days ago in Mazar-e-Sharif is not the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation process,” he said.
Russian officials have, on a number of occasions, acknowledged having “contacts” with the Taliban for the “safety of diplomatic mission” in the country — a claim seen with suspicion by the Afghan officials and their western backers.
Meanwhile, Mattis said there were no illusions in Washington associated with the international mission in Afghanistan. He acknowledged that 2017 was going to be another tough year for Afghan security forces and the international troops stationed there.
In an official statement, the Afghan Presidential Palace said President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani met the US secretary “ahead of expected decision on more US troops for Afghanistan”. – Bernama