An Afghan commander changed sides after seeing that Russia was backing the anti-Taleban alliance

An Afghan opposition commander who joined the ruling Taleban movement last week said on Wednesday he had changed sides after seeing that Russia was backing the anti-Taleban alliance. Commander Mahmoud Surkha, who came over with several dozen of his fighters to the Taleban, told a news conference he switched sides because he had seen Russian military officers and advisors in the ranks of opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood. ''The presence of Russians has discouraged many commanders," he told the conference organised by the Taleban authorities. Surkha said he operated as a commander for Masood in the north defecting to the movement on Saturday, Reyters announces. "All locals and civilians of Shomali (north of Kabul) saw the advisors. It is not propaganda," he said. "There were six Russian advisors including a woman who told us that they would provide all-out support for us to fight against the Taleban," he added. The opposition rejects reports on the presence of foreign advisors but says that as the internationally recognised Afghan government it has the right to purchase arms from abroad. It accuses the Taleban, which controls more than 95 percent of the country, of being helped by Pakistani fighters, a charge denied by Islamabad.

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