MATTIS: Russian action in Afghanistan 'gives us concern'

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon pose for a handshake in front of a ceremonial guard of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, as Mattis arrives for their meeting at the Ministry of Defence in London, March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Matt Dunham/Pool

Thomson Reuters


LONDON (Reuters) - The United States is concerned about Russia's presence in Afghanistan and its interactions with Taliban fighters, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday.

"We have seen Russian activity vis-à-vis the Taliban," Mattis said during a news conference in London.

"I'm not going to say at this point if that has manifested into weapons and that sort of thing, but certainly what they're up to there in light of their other activities gives us concern."

Mattis added that he had not yet decided whether to recommend an increase in U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan.

In late 2015, Russia said it would consider Afghan requests for arms supply "reasonably and carefully" and that such supplies were first the responsibilities of the US and NATO.

This month, US Gen. Curtis Scaparroti, head of European Command, said that Moscow had increasing influence with the Taliban and may even been supplying the group, which has been gaining ground in southern Afghanistan.

afghanistan Russia

Wikimedia Commons/RIA

The Soviet Union fought a draining war in Afghanistan for most of the 1980s.

More recently, Russia, along with Pakistan and China, have warned that there is a growing ISIS presence in war-torn Afghanistan, where US and NATO forces have been deployed for 16 years.

Chinese soldiers are also reportedly in the country, conducting drills with Afghan forces.

US Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel said in March that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan had sunk into a "stalemate."

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Phil Stewart; writing by William James, editing by David Milliken)

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