KABUL -- Iran and Russia are continuing to flood the Taliban with weapons and equipment in order to intensify the militants' war with the Afghan government and sabotage the peace process, according to Afghan analysts and former military officers.
Images of Taliban members equipped with new weapons and uniforms surfaced on the group's social media pages after the militant group announced its "Al-Fatah" spring offensive on April 12.
Those resources are coming from Iran and Russia, and the Taliban "wields and exacerbates the war using these weapons," Maj. Gen. (ret.) Abdul Wahab Wardak, former commander of the Afghan Air Force and a former deputy chief of army staff, told Salaam Times.
"Our ground forces and experts previously told us that they confiscated from the Taliban advanced Iranian and Russian weapons, such as rocket launchers and night-vision scopes in Farah and Helmand provinces," Wardak said.
"Iranian and Russian advanced weapons were previously used in Farah, Nimroz, and Herat provinces," he added. "Now the Taliban use these weapons in Badghis and Ghor provinces."
Thanks to this military aid, "the Taliban have become stronger," Wardak said. "In fact, the Taliban have intensified their Al-Fatah offensive by utilising combat equipment and weapons they received from those two countries."
Russian doctors help injured militants
The financial and military support from Russia and Iran is part of a campaign by the two countries to help the Taliban topple the government and to establish a regime in accordance to their own liking in Afghanistan, say analysts.
"Iranians and Russians want Afghanistan to be politically and economically under their thumb," Akbarjan Pulad, a Kabul-based political analyst, told Salaam Times.
"They do not want our country to have strategic partnerships with the United States and are trying to topple the government by supporting the Taliban."
"Iran is absolutely involved in the conflicts that wreak havoc in the western provinces" of Afghanistan, Pulad said.
"When I was the director of Jirgas and Tribal Affairs at the Ministry of Frontiers, Nations and Tribal Affairs, I was once informed that 11 containers of weapons had come from Russia to Sher Khan Bandar and were distributed among the six northern provinces," he said, referring to an Afghan border town.
Russians and Iranians are helping to train the Taliban, while Russian doctors treat injured Taliban militants, added Pulad.
"In Kunduz Province, the Taliban used Russian snipers," he said.
Undermining the peace process
Meanwhile, Russia and Iran are trying to undermine the peace process by supporting the Taliban's aim of defeating the NATO mission in Afghanistan, say military affairs analysts.
"The Russians and Iranians have been providing the Taliban with weapons, ammunition and advanced military equipment," Gen. (ret.) Mohammad Agul Mujahid, a Kabul-based military analyst, told Salaam Times.
This aid is the "reason behind the intensification of the war in various parts of the country", he said.
"NATO ... provides the Afghan government and Afghan security forces with financial, military and equipment support," Mujahid said.
"On the other hand, Iran and Russia, who compete with the United States, provide the Taliban with financial and military assistance in order to inflict damage on the United States and to defeat the international force's mission in Afghanistan."
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) "helps and co-operates with the Taliban in such fields as military training, strategic guidance, and warfare, and transfers Russian military equipment to the Taliban via Iranian territory", Mujahid said.
Providing the Taliban with weapons and equipment is aimed at sabotaging US peace efforts and disrupting the peace process, Mujahid said.
Iran and Russia seek to help the Taliban "cripple" US forces in Afghanistan and to dim any chance of peace, agreed Mohammad Daud Kalakani, a former member of the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament).
"Based on images that the Taliban have published of their special forces and their military equipment on their websites, I can say without a doubt that they receive them from major regional supporters ... so that the Taliban fighters can expand these battles throughout the country," he told Salaam Times.
"Iranians and Russians provide the Taliban with help and support, in order to defeat and cripple the United States in Afghanistan," Kalakani said.