*Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that the United States and NATO coalition have been trying to downplay the existence of Daesh militants in Afghanistan .*
"We are alarmed as unfortunately, the US and NATO military in Afghanistan makes every effort to silence and deny [the Daesh group’s presence in Afghanistan]," Lavrov told reporters after talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif in Moscow.
He said that Russia was skeptical about US and NATO’s resolve to eliminate Daesh in the country.
"We have very serious suspicions over the measures that the NATO coalition in Afghanistan is using to curb this threat," he said.
"According to our data, the IS presence in northern and eastern Afghanistan is rather serious, there are already thousands of gunmen," Lavrov said. "This increases the risk of the terrorists’ penetration to Central Asia and it is not that difficult to get to Russia ."
Lavrov stressed the need to step up efforts to prevent this scenario. "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where Pakistan and India have full-fledged membership, is represented by all key neighbors of Afghanistan and Afghanistan is taking part as an observer at the SCO," he said.
Besides Pakistan, China, Iran and Central Asian states are also in support of Russia’s regional peace initiative for a political solution to the war in Afghanistan .
According to Lavrov, the presence of Daesh in the north and east of Afghanistan is “serious” and “already amounts to a thousand people.”
Moscow is especially concerned, he said, about the security threat this creates for neighboring former Soviet republics and to Russia .
“Pakistan deeply values its closely and cooperative relations with the Russian Federation. Pakistan wants to enhance cooperation with Russia in diverse fields including trade, energy, defense production,” said Asif.
On Pakistan and Afghanistan relations, he said: “Our brotherly neighbor Afghanistan is in a painful situation. We believe that there is no military solution to Afghanistan’s internal conflict. A politically negotiated settlement to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process is the only viable solution to a lasting peace in Afghanistan . Pakistan and Russia share common concerns relating to threat posed by the prevailing situation ranging from terrorism, drug production, use of drug money for terror financing to security of the region and countries,” said Asif.
“Increasing presence of Daesh and locating its camps close to borders of Pakistan and central Asian republics is a cause for common concern. In this context, we share Russian concerns about unchecked proliferation of Daesh in Afghanistan . The presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan has achieved nothing over the last seventeen years. Their monumental failures in Afghanistan and there is an effort to (blame) Pakistan and other countries for these failures. We have rejected these baseless allegations,” said Asif.
This comes a few weeks after Daesh and the Taliban staged several attacks in Afghanistan , including one on a hotel in Kabul on January 20 and another a week later on the old interior ministry road that killed over 100 people - the majority of them civilians.
Moscow has repeatedly criticized Washington's strategy in Afghanistan , calling on the Taliban to be included in peace negotiations with the Afghan government.