The United States military in Afghanistan has disputed Moscow’s claim the number of Islamic State militants in the country runs into the thousands, and urged Russia and Iran to support the Kabul government, not the Taliban, to help defeat IS in the country.
Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan General John Nicholson made the remark Saturday while responding to recent Russian accusations Washington is intentionally downplaying the spread of IS militants in the country.
“The numbers that are spread about the number of Daesh fighters by Russia is grossly exaggerated. It is around 1,500,” Nicholson told a news conference in the Afghan capital. He used the Arabic acronym for IS.
The general said that IS militants are operating in parts of the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar and maintain a “pocket” in the northern Jowzjan province.
Nicholson said that Afghan forces, backed by U.S. counterterrorism troops and airpower, are attacking all three of the locations
“We have cut their numbers in half over the last two years. We have killed their ‘amirs’ (chiefs), we have reduced their territory, again, we have driven their fighters out of parts of the country,” explained the general, who also commands NATO’s Afghan military mission.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while speaking in Moscow, asserted that thousands of IS terrorists are present in northern and eastern Afghan regions and are being joined by militants fleeing Syria and Iraq.
The Russians and Iranians continue to insist that the US is supporting the rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, with the Russians insisting that they’ve monitored flights of helicopters which they claim belong to NATO, that fly over the ISIS-held areas, which he says no one can explain.
Both Iran and Russia claim that their support for the Taliban is only in the area of the hope to increase the likelihood of peace talks.
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