ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Iran has joined Russia in accusing the United States of aiding Islamic State extremists in Afghanistan, charges Washington vehemently denies.
"After witnessing Daesh and other organized terrorist groups losing their ground in Iraq and Syria, they are now relocating them to Afghanistan," Iranian media quoted the country's top military commander as alleging Tuesday. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for IS.
The chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, said continued tensions would provide Americans "with the much desired pretext" to prolong their military presence in the region, he told reporters in Tehran.
"We are witnessing a fresh round of explosions, assassinations and crimes in Afghanistan," the general said, linking the violence to the growing IS influence in the war-torn country.
On Sunday, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami telephoned his Afghan counterpart, Tariq Shah Bahrami, and warned him Washington is plotting to attempt to "transfer [the] ISIL terrorist group" to Afghanistan. ISIL is another acronym for Islamic State.
Speaking in Kabul last month, U.S. Ambassador John Bass strongly refuted the accusations and reiterated Washington's resolve to eliminate IS from Afghanistan.
"Let me take this opportunity, since these rumors continue to circulate, to emphatically state that the United States has not brought Daesh to Afghanistan. The United States has not ever supported Daesh, its creation, its horrible attacks in any form, or fashion," said Bass.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while speaking to a U.N. Security Council meeting on Afghanistan, leveled similar allegations.
"The north of Afghanistan is turning into a support base for international terrorism led by the ISIS Afghan wing that is building a stronghold for implementing destructive plans in the spirit of the "caliphate's" notorious ideology," Lavrov said.
The Russian diplomat said Moscow has brought its concerns to the attention of the United Nations and the United States, but has not received a response. Russian officials say IS intends to use its Afghan bases to destabilize Central Asian republics, Moscow's close allies.
"Many heads of Afghan provinces have claimed they have repeatedly spotted helicopters without identifying insignia that were flying towards ISIS-controlled territories in Afghanistan," Lavrov maintained.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also repeatedly accused Washington of supporting IS militants in his country.
After launching its extremist activities from eastern Afghanistan in early 2015, the Afghan affiliate of IS has lately expanded its influence to some northern provinces where the terrorist group has also captured territory.
Afghan forces backed by U.S. air power have conducted frequent operations against IS bases. Officials maintain that the offensive has killed hundreds of terrorists and confined them to only a few districts in eastern provinces bordering Pakistan.
IS has conducted major attacks in Afghanistan, including a recent assault on a military academy in Kabul that killed 11 Afghan soldiers and wounded 16 others.