Yesterday, during the Senate’s debate on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s confirmation, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mentioned he wouldn’t be surprised if Russia made a move to help the Taliban against us and NATO. It appears he was onto something because Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia wants to “legitimize the Taliban” in Afghanistan as a way “to undermine the United States and NATO. From The Hill:

“The Russian involvement this year has become more difficult,” Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “First, they have begun to publicly legitimize the Taliban. This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting Islamic State and the Afghan government is not fighting Islamic State and that therefore there could be spillover of this group into the region. This is a false narrative.”

“I believe its intent is to undermine the United States and NATO,” he later added.

Nicholson stated Russia started to interfere in 2016 and their involvement “continues to increase.” He continued:

“The Russian involvement, this year, has become more difficult,” Army Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“First, they have begun to publicly legitimize the Taliban,” he continued. “This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting Islamic State and the Afghan government is not fighting Islamic State and that therefore there could be spillover of this group into the region. This is a false narrative.”

Nicholson could not provide classified information to the senators at the hearing, but reports from January back up his accusations. The Wall Street Journal published a report that Moscow “disclosed details of contacts with the Taliban.” In December, Russian officials hosted officials from China and Pakistan about combatting the terrorist threats within Afghanistan. Yes, they did that without Afghanistan or U.S. officials.

The Kremlin also did not approve removing “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar from a United Nations sanctions list, a crucial condition of an Afghan government peace deal with the warlord’s al Qaeda-linked insurgent group.” The U.S. and its allies immediately saw this as a sign that Russia wants to use Hekmatyar, an Afghan politician and warlord, “as a template for future talks with the Taliban.”

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said they need to inform President Donald Trump of these revelations and Nicholson quickly agreed.

Nicholson also acknowledged a stalemate in Afghanistan and that he has “a shortfall of a few thousand” soldiers. But it’s not necessarily to fight. Instead, he needs “troops to train and advise the Afghans.” The advisors in Afghanistan work “at the command level of army corps.” Nicholson wants more advisors “at lower levels in the chain of command, specifically Afghan brigades.”

From The New York Times:

As a general rule, the use of military advisers is more effective if it is not limited to advising foreign armies in their military headquarters, but also extends to units in the field. The Obama administration’s decision last summer to provide air support for Afghan forces fighting the Taliban also increased the need for advisers below the level of Afghan army corps, General Nicholson said.

General Nicholson said that the thousands of additional advisers he was seeking could come from allied armies and did not all need to be American. But there appears to be little appetite among NATO nations to send more troops to Afghanistan.