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Russian Deputy Defense Minister on ISIL, Russia-US Relations, Terror Groups

© AP PhotoMilitants from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate the group's declaration of an Islamic state, in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq
Militants from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate the group's declaration of an Islamic state, in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq - Sputnik International
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Highlights of Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov's speech at the Xiangshan defense forum in Beijing.

BEIJING (Sputnik) – The Islamic State radical group is planning to expand its activities to Europe, Russia and Central and Southeast Asia, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said, warning that Afghanistan could be used by ISIL militants to get to northern China and CIS states.

"Recently, the activity of terrorist groups affiliated with the Islamic State increased substantially on the Afghan territory. Afghanistan could be used by the group for further expansion to CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries in Central Asia and in the direction of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in [northwest] China," Antonov said at the Xiangshan Forum on defense, which is being held in Beijing on October 16-17.

The deputy defense minister added that ISIL radicals have stable financial resources and reliable equipment and could expand their activities to Europe.

Antonov stressed that the international community should not ignore the fact that certain countries are providing assistance to terrorist groups in hopes of achieving their national objectives.

"Terrorists allow others to control them until the moment they become strong, and then they get out of control," Antonov said, pointing to Syria, where ISIL radicals were once 'generously paid by ‘fighters for democracy'."

Radical Activity Spikes in Afghanistan, 50,000 Militants Active

Islamic State militants and other radical groups are on the rise in Afghanistan, which might not be able to deal with the threat on its own, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said adding that Russia will continue its assistance to Kabul.

"There are currently up to 50,000 militants in the country [Afghanistan], organized into over 4,000 different units and groups. Russia intends to continue its assistance to the Afghan government on the bilateral level as well as together with SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organization] and CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization] partners," Antonov said.

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According to CSTO data, there are about 2,000-3,000 ISIL militants in Afghanistan.

Antonov stressed that ISIL activity in the country has recently increased and Kabul’s ability to deal with the threat independently remains questionable.

Russia currently delivers weaponry to Afghanistan and provides military training for Afghan officers.

Afghanistan continues to be in a state of political and social turmoil as the Taliban and Islamic State radicals take advantage of instability in the country, which has persisted since the 2001 US-led invasion.

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On Thursday, US President Barack Obama announced that the United States would keep a troop presence of 9,800 in Afghanistan, gradually scaling it down over the next two years, instead of fully withdrawing all of its forces from the country by 2016, as originally planned.

CSTO member-states (Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia) committed to strengthening military capacity in Afghanistan after a September meeting amid a rise of radical militants in the country.

US Not Ready to Accept Russian Offer for More Cooperation on Syria

Russia is offering the United States broader cooperation on Syria, where both countries are conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets, but Washington is not yet ready for it, Anatoly Antonov also said.

"We are holding talks with our American partners on concluding an agreement on ensuring the safety of flights over Syria. But that’s not enough. We are offering far broader cooperation that Washington is not ready for yet," Antonov said.

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Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow, Washington and Brussels should work together to encourage the warring parties in Syria to engage in dialogue to find a political solution to the conflict. In turn, Washington claimed it would cooperate with Russia in its anti-ISIL fight, but only if Moscow accepted the US political strategy to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

Antonov stressed on Saturday that Russia is interested in cooperating on the Syrian issue with all countries concerned and has already established contacts with Turkey, Israel, at the same time reinforcing its ties with the Persian Gulf states.

Syria has been mired in a civil war since 2011. Syrian government forces are fighting against opposition factions and extremist groups, including Islamic State radicals.

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Russia started carrying out precision airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria on September 30, at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A US-led coalition has been targeting the positions of ISIL radicals in Syria since September 2014, without the approval of the Syrian government or the UN Security Council.

The United States, which has been supporting the so-called "moderate" Syrian opposition and calling for Assad to step down, has accused Russia of targeting Assad’s opponents rather than ISIL positions in Syria. Russia has dismissed such allegations, stressing that they lack factual evidence.

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Antonov reiterated on Saturday that the airstrikes that Russia is conducting in Syria at the request of Assad target only ISIL infrastructure and all data on the airstrikes is made available by the Russian side.

Russia, Syria, Iran and Iraq have established the Baghdad Information Center in the Iraqi capital for coordinating intelligence and security cooperation against terrorists.

According to US President Barack Obama, Moscow and Washington have come to an agreement on the deconfliction in the event where US and Russian planes occupy similar space over Syrian skies.

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