"Currently there are up to 50,000 fighters in Afghanistan, united in over 4,000 units and groups of various kinds. Their basis is the Islamic movement of the Taliban numbering about 40,000 militants," Gerasimov said.
Speaking on the opening day of an international forum on Afghanistan organized by the Russian Defense Ministry, the General Staff chief estimated that over 3,500 people have been killed and 7,000 injured this year, representing a 25-percent increase in civilian casualties.
The official said ongoing extremist activity is hindering efforts by Kabul for political and social stabilization within the country, leading to violence and an ever larger refugee population fleeing to neighboring countries and Europe.
The two-day forum on Afghanistan is taking place against the backdrop of the fight for the northern city of Kunduz, where US aerial bombing raids killed 22 staff and patients at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) hospital last week.