Russians discovered fighting alongside Taliban in Bala Murghab
HERAT -- Fighters from foreign countries, including Russia, were among the hundreds of Taliban militants who launched attacks April 4 in the centre of Bala Murghab District, Badghis Province.
The battle between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces lasted for one week, Afghan officials said. The insurgents were eventually forced out of the district by the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan special operations police, as well as by the Afghan Air Force and NATO's Resolute Support Mission, which carried out many air strikes.
The foreign militants fighting alongside the Taliban provided the group with advice and support in the battle near the Turkmen border, said the officials.
"A number of foreign fighters, including a Russian doctor, were among the Taliban who were killed by our forces," said Mohammad Ibrahim Fazli, commander of the Third Division of the ANA in Badghis Province.
"Dead bodies of foreign terrorists still remain on the battlefield," proving their "presence alongside the Taliban", he told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban's foreign supporters, including Chechens, Pakistanis and those from other countries, gathered in Bala Murghab District and were [fighting] alongside the Taliban," he said.
Abdul Ghafor Malakzai, the governor of Badghis, also confirmed the presence of a Russian doctor in the Bala Murghab battle.
"Our intelligence reports indicate that a Russian national was among the Taliban killed by our security forces during the battle," Malakzai told Salaam Times.
"The Taliban were not alone in Bala Murghab, and foreign terrorists were on their side," he added.
The battle was part of "a very large conspiracy, [proving that] generals and officials in the neighbouring countries had worked on this war plan," said Malakzai. "The Taliban themselves did not know what they wanted in Bala Murghab, because they were ordered only to fight."
The Taliban are far too weak to be able to plan and carry out complex offensives on their own, say local officials and members of the Badghis Provincial Council.
"There is no doubt that foreigners are present in the ranks of the Taliban leadership in Badghis Province," Abdul Aziz Beik, chairman of the Badghis Provincial Council, told Salaam Times.
"Bala Murghab serves as a corridor connecting northern and southern regions of Afghanistan, and most terrorist acts in that district are organised by foreign terrorists," he said.
Russian advisers in the battle of Bala Murghab were much more numerouos than reported, said Mohammad Naser Nazari, a member of the Badghis Provincial Council.
"In addition to foreign [fighters] in the battle of Bala Murghab, four or five Russian advisers were also present alongside the Taliban," he told Salaam Times.
"Foreigners are present in Bala Murghab District, both to advise the Taliban and to fight the security forces," he added.
"The Taliban -- who once couldn't do anything -- suddenly received advanced weaponry, including night-time vision" equipment, he added. "It shows that foreigners are supporting and arming the Taliban."
"According to the information which we have acquired, the Russians have been in Bala Murghab District for more than two months," Nazari added.
"The Taliban are like international terrorists who are accompanied by other terrorists from several countries, including Arabs, Chechens and other countries' [nationals]," Mohammad Rafiq Shahir, a political analyst in Herat Province, told Salaam Times.
"Recently, Russian nationals have been seen alongside the Taliban, indicating some strong networks in those countries behind those who provide all the equipment and capabilities [to the Taliban]," Shahir told Salaam Times.
Neighbouring and regional countries support the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan in order to undermine Afghan and US forces in Afghanistan "for the purpose of achieving their common objectives", he added.
"External intelligence networks are active in Afghanistan and have recently carried out activities, deploying some agents to various parts of the country," Shahir said.
"Russia has deep co-ordination and communications with the Taliban," he said.
"It was previously assumed that the Taliban's relationship with Russia was limited to some contacts," said Shahir. "Recent developments involving the participation of Russian nationals in the war and the use of Russian weapons by the Taliban, however, revealed that [Russia] has now entered a 'hot war' in Afghanistan."
Civil society activists and residents of Badghis Province consider the presence of foreign fighters alongside the Taliban -- along with the support provided to the Taliban by some neighbouring and regional countries -- clear interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
"We all see that the neighbouring countries, as well as Russia, support the Taliban, providing them with financial and weapon assistance," Abdurrazzaq Seddiqi, a civil society activist in Badghis, told Salaam Times.
"We call on the youth of these countries, especially the Russians, not to interfere in our country's internal affairs and refrain from supporting the Taliban."
"These neighbouring countries interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs, and this has been a trend for years," Junaidullah Ashkani, a civil society activist in Badghis, told Salaam Times.
"These countries' actions -- from providing the Taliban with weapons to participating directly in the war -- reflect their direct involvement," he said.