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Earth Times, July 20, 2007

Iran accused of training old Afghan enemies to fight US

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is cautious to not accuse the Iranian government.

Herat - Erstwhile enemies who once stood on the brink of war, Iran and the Taliban now appear linked by conflicts against the US, as officials and political analysts accuse Tehran of training and arming the Afghan insurgents.

Colonel Rahmatullah Safi, border police commander in the three western provinces of Farah, Badghis and Herat, claimed that his forces seized and intercepted weapons including anti-tank mines on the Afghan-Iranian border that were intended for the Taliban.

The influence of Iran is a source of tension between Shiites and Sunnis that recently exploded into deadly violence in Afghanistan's western city of Herat, residents say.
AFP, January 25, 2007

"Since Americans are in a difficult situation in Iraq, Iran wants to turn Afghanistan into a second Iraq for them and their international allies," Safi said in his headquarters 15 kilometres outside Herat city.

"The Iranian officials try to keep foreign forces in the country busy in the fight with Taliban, so they don't have the chance to put more pressure or attack Iran because of its nuclear programme," he said.

Safi also said that he had intelligence information that militants including former mujahedeen, who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan and later plunged the country into a bloody civil war, ousted members of the Taliban and foreign fighters were trained in Iranian military bases.

"I have information that 45 fighters led by Yahya Khortarak, who was a mujahedeen commander in Herat province in the past, are now under training in the border town of Turbat Jam in Iran and they want to enter Herat from the Kamana area of the border to carry out some terrorist acts like planting mines, or even maybe suicide attacks," Safi said.

The brigade that Safi commands comprises 1,652 agents, but he says the actual number of men patrolling the 1186-kilometre border is barely 900.

"We don't even have one guard per kilometre, but the Iranians have thousands, so it's impossible that they are unaware of these movements," he admitted.

NATO and US government officials in the past have also claimed that Iranian-made weapons were found in Afghanistan but this was the first direct accusation by an Afghan regional official that Iran was involved in assisting the resurgent Taliban.

NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Maria Carl also confirmed that Iranian-made weaponry was found in Afghanistan but said that the alliance was not sure if Tehran was supplying them.

"There have definitely been a number of weapons that we have found that have markings consistent with an Iranian origin, so that part is not disputed at all," Carl said. "But it is not still clear, we still don't have evidence which shows that there is any formal Iranian political backing or that the government of Iran is behind it."

Afghan and ISAF officials also recently claimed that they had seized five explosively formed penetrator bombs (EFP), which can pierce military armoured vehicles, and have been found in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Pro-Iran Wahdat Party fighters during the bloody years of 1992-96 in Kabul
RAWA: Gunmen of pro-Iran Hezb-e-Wahdat (Party of Unity) in Kabul in 1994. This party was made, supported and armed by Iranian regime and has been involve in heinous crimes against Afghan people but its leader Karim Khalili is vice-president today.

"Some EFP components may be made in Iran, but it doesn't necessarily mean the Iranian government is behind it," Colonel Thomas Kelly, deputy chief of ISAF counter-Improvised Explosive Device, said Wednesday.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is cautious to not accuse the Iranian government.

Tehran also denied that it would send arms for Islamists of the Taliban group in Afghanistan.

"These allegations are so baseless as Iran's role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan is unanimously confirmed by both friends and enemies (of Iran)," IRNA, Iran's state-run news agency, quoted Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Mehdi Safari, as saying.

"The accusations by the foreign forces are more an effort to cover their weakness in effectively confronting terrorism and establishing security in Afghanistan," Safari added.

Taliban spokesman Zabeeullah Mujahed also denied that they were receiving arms or training from Iran.

"We don't get any help from Iran or Pakistan, we receive assistance from different nations. We are buying weapons from international markets and bring them to Afghanistan through different means including smuggling them," he said.

Despite the denials, border police commander Safi believes that Iranian government is playing both sides: arming the Taliban while making friendly overtures to Karzai government.

"I am not talking for any one, neither for Karzai nor for the Americans - whatever I see I say it. I have seen the Iranian-made mines and armed people entering Afghanistan and I know that the militants are trained there," he stressed.

"Iran knows Afghanistan has become an important place for the US and NATO countries, so by putting pressure on Afghanistan they can make the Western countries relax pressure on Tehran," said Dad Noorani, an Afghan writer and political analyst.

Thanks to its strategic location, Afghanistan has once again become a theatre for rival political interests to be played out.


Category: Taliban/ISIS/Terrorism, US-NATO - Views: 13757


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