US General in Afghanistan lashes out at Iran, Russia over support to Afghan Taliban

US General in Afghanistan lashes out at Iran, Russia over support to Afghan Taliban

KABUL - The US military has rejected Russia’s claim about the strength of Daesh or Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan as exaggerated, asking Moscow and Tehran to support the Afghan government instead of the Taliban rebels.

Russia has claimed the number of Daesh fighters runs into the thousands in Afghanistan, but US and NATO <link> forces top commander in Kabul Gen. John Nicholson said they were only 1500.

Talking to reporters in Kabul on Saturday, Gen. Nicholson urged Russia and Iran to support the Kabul government, not the Taliban, to help defeat IS in the country.

Moscow has recently accused Washington of ‘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 said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The general said that IS militants were operating in parts of the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar and maintained a “pocket” in the northern Jawzjan province.

He said that Afghan forces, backed by US counterterrorism troops and airpower, were re 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.