Members of the Taliban gather at the site of the execution of three men accused of murdering a couple during a robbery in Ghazni province, Afghanistan April 18, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
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Allegations over Russia and Iran's deepening ties with the Taliban have ignited concerns of a renewed "Great Game" of proxy warfare in Afghanistan that could undermine U.S.-backed troops and push the country deeper into turmoil.Washington's long-time nemesis Tehran is accused of covertly aiding the Taliban, and Russia is back to what observers call Cold War shenanigans to derail U.S. gains at a time when uncertainty reigns over President-elect Donald Trump's Afghanistan policy.Russia has officially provided military helicopters for Afghan forces, but simultaneously propped up the Taliban with arms, official and insurgent sources say.This week Kabul vented fury over a summit between Russia, China and Pakistan in Moscow which agreed on a "flexible approach" to remove certain Taliban figures from sanctions lists.Afghanistan has long been used as a chessboard for proxy battles – from the 19th-century "Great Game" of rivalry between Britain and Russia to the U.S. funneling weapons through Pakistan to Afghan rebels fighting Soviet forces in the '80s.
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