KABUL -- Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former militant commander and one-time Taliban ally, has confirmed that Russia supports the Taliban.
"There is a relationship between the Taliban and Moscow, and I understand and hear that Russia strongly supports the Taliban," Hekmatyar told Al Jazeera in an interview broadcast November 19.
Hekmatyar and his dormant Hezb-e-Islami militant group signed a peace deal with the Afghan government in September 2016.
"Two years ago ... there was much evidence of Iran's support for the Taliban, but Afghanistan's intelligence reports indicate that since 2014, Russians, alongside Iranians, also have built a relationship with the Taliban by providing weaponry and financial assistance to them," Muhammad Jaan Rasool, former deputy governor for Helmand Province, told Salaam Times.
Russia supports the Taliban because it "wants to prevent the spread of war to its borders and countries under its influence," he said. "It wants to keep the ongoing war within Afghanistan."
"By supporting the Taliban, Moscow plans to make Afghanistan's situation more critical so the presence of the international community, especially the United States, comes under question," Zakaria Zakaria, a member of parliament representing Kabul, told Salaam Times.
"Moscow considers the presence of westerners in Afghanistan a danger to itself," he said. "Therefore, [Russians] want to support the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and even some other groups in Afghanistan not only to have control over Afghanistan but also to hurt westerners in the country."
[Sulaiman from Kabul contributed to this report.]