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​Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, briefs the press at the Pentagon on Dec. 2, 2016. Screenshot of DOD video.

​Russia and Iran have been exerting influence inside Afghanistan, in an attempt to legitimize the Taliban over the NATO-led coalition in the fight against ISIS, a move officials say is causing more instability in the region. “Russia has overly lent legitimacy to the Taliban,” said Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. “And their narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting the Islamic State, not the Afghan government.” However, Nicholson said, in reality, “the Afghan government and the US counterterrorism effort are the ones achieving the greatest effect against Islamic State.” These Russian statements are “not based on fact,” but instead are a way to try to undermine NATO and the Afghan government. Iran, as well, has made similar statements. Eighty seven percent of the total Afghan population opposes Taliban rule. “So when these external actors, be it Russia or Iran, publicly legitimize a movement that’s not supported by the people, they’re not advancing the cause of stability in the region.”