The top U.S. general in Afghanistan has said the Russians are supporting and supplying arms to the Taliban, adding more fuel to the already tense relationship between the two superpowers.

General John Nicolson said in an interview with the BBC that he’s seen “destabilizing activity by the Russians.”  He said Russian weapons are being supplied to the Taliban via the Tajik border. Russia has denied US allegations in the past, citing that there isn’t any evidence.

We see a narrative that’s being used that grossly exaggerates the number of Isis [Islamic State group] fighters here,” Gen Nicholson told BBC News. “This narrative then is used as a justification for the Russians to legitimise the actions of Taliban and provide some degree of support to the Taliban.”

“We’ve had stories written by the Taliban that have appeared in the media about financial support provided by the enemy. We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban,” he continued. “We know that the Russians are involved.”

Much of Gen Nicholson’s career has been spent in the conflict in Afghanistan. He narrowly escaped death when his office in the Pentagon was destroyed by one of the 9/11 planes and the US campaign in Afghanistan has shaped his career ever since.

He believes this direct Russian involvement with the Taliban is relatively new. He says Russia has conducted a series of exercises on the Afghan border with Tajikistan. “These are counter terrorism exercises,” says Gen Nicholson, “but we’ve seen the Russian patterns before: they bring in large amounts of equipment and then they leave some of it behind.”

Despite the war fought between the Russians and Taliban in Afghanistan during the 1980s, their shadowy alliance could be a simple fact is that now their aims are more closely aligned. Nicholson pointed to destabilizing Russian activity in Syria as well.

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