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​Russia has continued to not only legitimize the Taliban, it has also armed the group, the top US official in Afghanistan said in a statement that prompted Russia to push back quickly. US Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, said during a Monday appearance with Defense Secretary James Mattis that Russia started late last year legitimizing the Taliban and arming “belligerents who perpetuate attacks,” such as Friday’s storming of an Afghan National Army base that resulted in more than 140 deaths. To reach a peaceful reconciliation, Russia needs to change its approach, Nicholson said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Nicholson’s comments were “unprofessional and groundless,” according to Russian state media.