How Iran aides the Afghan Taliban under America’s nose

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By Amir Basiri

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has been active amongst Taliban terrorists opposing the Afghan government, Radio France International website reported on Tuesday citing Farah Province officials in western Afghanistan.

Farah Provincial Council Chair Jamile Amini has accused Iran of sending IRGC members to join the Taliban ranks and files, adding that 25 Taliban members recently killed in this province were IRGC members.

Farah Province intelligence services report Iranian officials have held ceremonies for IRGC members killed amongst the armed dissidents in their province opposing the Afghan government, according to Mohammad Nosser Mehri, spokesman of the Farah governor.

 These reports wired at a time when Farah Province Governor Mohammad Asef Nang accused Iran recently of provoking violence and spreading insecurity in this province.

Despite the apparent irony of Shiite Iran supporting Sunni Taliban, Tehran in fact has a long history of meddling in Afghan affairs and providing for this terrorist group.

Afghan security forces issued a formal complaint over Iran providing logistics and military support for the Afghan Taliban.

Official spokesman Mullah Zabihullah, the group’s second in command, went one step further and shed light on the relations between Iran and new Taliban networks. “He said to the London based Asharq Al-Awsat in an email 18 months ago, that the movement had received drone planes, which help film suicidal operations,” Al-Arabiya reported back in late October.

Iran has been the target of major accusations over providing lethal military support to the Taliban in its long-running war against the international ISAF coalition led by the United States in Afghanistan.

Various analysts, including Washington-based experts of the Institute for the Study of War, believe the ongoing relationship between Iran and the Taliban has been fueled by the pure sentiment of opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Reports of deep Iran-Taliban relations dating back to June 2015 indicate how the Obama administration turned a blind eye to this very troubling phenomenon, most likely to not at all push Iran into derailing the controversial nuclear talks that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Afghan and Western officials say Tehran has quietly increased its supply of weapons, ammunition and funding to the Taliban, and is now recruiting and training their fighters, posing a new threat to Afghanistan’s fragile security,” The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015.

“Iran supplies us with whatever we need,” Abdullan, a Taliban commander stationed in central Afghanistan who received a $580 monthly salary and arms from his Iranian sponsors, told the paper.

Afghan and Western officials accused Iran of slowly boosting its supply to the Taliban of arms, ammunition and funding, and moving forward to recruit and train their fighters. Iran’s IRGC has also been a long and vital ally for the Taliban.

Iranian intelligence has also recruited Afghan immigrants on their soil to assist their support for Taliban, ferrying a variety of weapons including “82mm mortars, light machine guns, AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and materials for making roadside bombs,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Tehran has further been accused of enjoying affiliations with al-Qaeda, a known ally of the Taliban.

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security has “over the past 20 years, provided financial, material, technological, and other support services to AQI,” The Tower reported, citing the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Support Program analysis.

Further:

“In 2012, the United States Treasury Department exposed the extensive financial ties between Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the terrorist organization that evolved into ISIS.

“The generous support Iran afforded ISIS in its formative years was part of a broader alliance that the Islamic Republic established with al-Qaeda over a decade ago.”

According to Michael Pregent, a former U.S. military intelligence officer:

“Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.”

Down the road, U.S. officials raised similar charges against the Assad regime bombing non-Islamist rebels “in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo,” in practice supporting the terror group push back the Syrian opposition fighting the Assad regime.

Iran considers its support for terrorist and extremist groups, Shiites and Sunnis alike, through a perspective of convenience. From Hamas to Taliban, to the Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Syria, Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, Iran supports and backs groups precisely acting and pursuing its interests in specific areas of the Middle East.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of entities including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran seeking peaceful regime change in Iran, recently warned of Tehran’s meddling across the region.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” she said in a statement.

Such a relationship with the Afghan Taliban reveals the bogus nature of Iran’s claims of fighting terrorism and ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, we have to admit Iran is in fact supporting the Taliban and essentially destabilizing a state and government supported by the West, and the international community as a whole.

Iran has most likely, as forecasted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, used billions of previously sanctioned money released as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal to boost its efforts in supporting terrorism and insecurity across the region.

Amir Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst. His writing has appeared in Forbes and The Washington Examiner, among other publications. Follow him on Twitter: @amir_bas.

Originally published in The Hill

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