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US opposes interaction with Taliban as a counter to Islamic State — State Department

Taliban is creating an ecosystem that allows 20 terrorist organizations to operate, said a State Department official

WASHINGTON, March 6. /TASS/. The United States does not support the idea of possible cooperation with the radical Taliban movement, aimed to counterbalance the strengthening of the Islamic State (IS, ISIS - a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) in Afghanistan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State told journalists.

She commented on the recent statements of US officials claiming that Russia is arming the Taliban. Wells said that Moscow and Tehran allegedly propose to consider the possibility of interaction with the Taliban movement in order to neutralize the strengthening of the local branch of the IS in Afghanistan. The US diplomat specified that she means the Khorasan terrorist group. Over the last few months Moscow has repeatedly denied the assumption of supporting the Taliban and sending weapons to them.

US concerns

"I can’t speak to arming of the Taliban. What I can speak to are concerns that we have by Russia and by Iran that justify the Taliban on the basis that they are opposed to ISIS Khorasan. And this breakdown in consensus against the Taliban and the idea that there should be diplomatic intelligence liaison with the Taliban, we think, is quite detrimental to peace and prospects for peace because it sustains a Taliban ecosystem that has encouraged and supported these terrorist groups in Afghanistan," Wells said.

According to her, the way to defeat ISIS Khorasan is to strengthen the Government of Afghanistan and to work with the Government of Afghanistan to defeat ISIS.

"It’s not to support the Taliban. And so that’s our concern over what we’ve seen as hedging behavior by countries in the region," she said.

"We’ve raised our concerns with the Russians. We’ve certainly raised our concerns about propaganda that suggests that the United States is not intent on defeating and fighting ISIS Khorasan. Over the last year, we’ve intensified our efforts against ISIS Khorasan. We’ve tripled the amount of bombing raids against ISIS. We’ve expanded our own military efforts. We’ve taken emirs off the battlefield, thousands of - over 1,600 fighters off the battlefield, "" Wells said.

"And those efforts will continue because I think all of us recognize that while the Taliban may be - represent an insurgency, they stand for and are Afghan nationalists of one type. ISIS is a nihilistic force that is bent on the very destruction of Afghanistan. And so there is a seriousness, an extreme seriousness of effort, in defeating ISIS by Resolute Support Mission and by the U.S. bilateral counterterrorism forces that are in Afghanistan," she concluded.

When reporters asked Wells to elaborate about statements that Russia was willing to interact with Taliban she said:

"All I can say is that what we - what we’ve seen publicly and what the Russians have stated publicly is their willingness to engage diplomatically and in an intelligence fashion with the Taliban. And that has to be disturbing because the Taliban is not an asset, the Taliban is creating the terrorist ecosystem that allows 20 terrorist organizations to operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area."

No evidence provided

The US party has not yet provided any evidence of Russia's arming the Taliban.

In October, head of NATO Military Committee, Czech general Petr Pavel told reporters that the North Atlantic Alliance does not have data that would confirm the reliability of the recent conclusions about the transfer of weapons to the Taliban by Russia.

Last year, Russia’s Foreign Ministry rejected such insinuations by some representatives of the US administration and some Afghan officials. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, in particular, that there was a "misinformation campaign in the United States about the alleged arming of the Taliban in Afghanistan."