The Times reported that it learnt from members of the Taliban and Afghan officials that Russia is funding Taliban military operations against NATO in Afghanistan through a covert program of laundered fuel sales.
The report said that Russia’s intelligence services are sending fleets of fuel tankers into Afghanistan through the Hairatan border crossing with Uzbekistan to companies operating on behalf of the Taliban.
The Times reported that about $2.5 million USD is raised in cash from the sale of this fuel each month which is then delivered directly to insurgent paymasters.
According to the report, Russia has accelerated its support in recent months in an apparent attempt to bolster the Taliban against Daesh.
“We sell the fuel on and distribute the money directly to our commanders,” a Taliban treasurer from Ghazni province told The Times. He had been authorized to speak to a journalist as part of the Taliban’s efforts to advertise its relationship with international backers, in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to send in more troops.
“Accepting money from the Russians is not something we like doing,” the Taliban treasurer said, “but it is necessary at this stage of our jihad.”
The meetings with The Times were the first time the Taliban had publicly admitted to receiving Russian support.
Afghan defense ministry said in reaction to the report on Russia’s support to Taliban that Russia needs to support the Afghan government.
Defense ministry said Russia is a friend to Afghanistan and that it should support Afghan forces in their fight against insurgents.
“It is not correct. If Russia has done this or not, it is not correct and it is not in favor of Russia also. Russia is a friend to Afghanistan, not an enemy and it should support Afghan security and defense forces,” defense ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said.
A number of parliament members meanwhile said Russia is trying to take over the management of war in the region.
“Russia wants to control the war in the region, but Afghanistan’s enemies should not be strengthened through a proxy war and the Afghan people should not suffer because of their war,” MP Naheed Farid said.