Iran, the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world, has been playing a vicious role in abetting conflict in the Middle East. Tehran's support of terrorism in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan threatens local and national security as well as efforts to promote peace and economic stability in the region. The Iranian Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard finances terrorism through its support of groups such as Hammas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mehdi Militia, insurgent groups in Iraq, the Taliban as well as other militant factions in Afghanistan. Despite the gravity of these accusations, the US military has yet to officially press NATO the UN or the Afghan Government to launch an investigation.
Prior to the arrival of US forces in Afghanistan, Tehran supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. However, when American forces landed in Afghanistan, Tehran allied themselves with their former enemies. Many Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders, including members of Osama Bin Ladin's family, reportedly sought refuge in Iran. Furthermore, in interviews Osama Bin Ladin has promoted an alliance between the Taliban and Iran against the United States.
Though first reveled amid a media storm in 1997, the well substantiated Iran-Al Qaeda connection has faded from the news. In March 2002 a military operation in eastern Afghanistan found several documents, including unused Air Iran tickets and hotel bills from Mashad, and ammunition in the mountain caves in eastern Afghanistan. In June 2007, Director of US National Intelligence Michael McConnell, affirmed that compelling evidence exists which shows that Iran has supported terrorist groups in Afghanistan. In the same year, NATO seized a cache of Iranian-marked weapons being supplied to Taliban through Farah Province on the Iranian border. After a field analysis, NATO affirmed that these arms were used in Iraq against the US forces by insurgents. In 2009, British officials in London charged a NATO Commanding General Afghan interpreter with passing secrets to Iran.
Media investigative reports have also found several cases of Iranian involvement in the Afghan insurgency. In September 2008, BBC's Kate Clark revealed the Iranian arms are intensifying Taliban insurgency when a Taliban commander admitted that the arms supplied from Iran revolutionized their fight against the US. The commander is quoted as saying, "There's a kind of mine called the Dragon. Iran is sending it and we have got it. It's directional and very powerful." Furthermore, the commander revealed that Iranian arms were only available to special groups, those with "good contacts" to the Iranians. "There are people inside the state in Iran who donate weapons. There are also Iranian businessmen who sell them," he added.
Sunday Times newspaper recently reported that Iran is supporting insurgents through sophisticated training of IEDs to kill NATO and US troops in Afghanistan. Taliban commanders told the newspaper that they are trained in Iran's Zahidan city and in the camps near the Afghan-Iranian border. Taliban commanders also said they were taught to attack convoys and escape before NATO forces respond. Moreover, according to US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral, in preparation for the planned US military offensive in Kandahar, to be launched in June of this year, a huge shipment of weapons was ferried to the region by Iran.
Despite the wealth of media reports and substantiated military evidence, the US and NATO have limited their response to statements of to condemnation. No formal investigation has been pursued. Afghan President Karzai is hesitant to turn his back on Tehran especially now that the US has being openly critical of the rampant corruption and poor governance in his country. Karzai even invited Iranian President Ahmedinejad to Kabul to discuss an alliance against the US, wherein the Iranian President abandoned diplomatic tactics in favor of blatantly blaming Afghanistan's western allies.
Despite a wealth of evidence, the US and NATO have yet to officially follow through with an investigation into Iranian-Afghan cooperation. The US has to be serious and practical and move from criticism to concrete steps regarding Iranian support to insurgents. This issue could be taken to the UN Security Council because international troops in Afghanistan are fighting under its mandate. The Afghan Government should be forced to ask Tehran to stop supporting militants in Afghanistan. Finally, accusations should be taken up officially in the form of an investigation so that the ongoing blame game can be circumvented.
Unless the Iranian double-game in Afghanistan is not blocked, insurgency will remain a quagmire for the US led NATO forces. The US must stop Iranian meddling through all possible channels of intermediation. A blame game of occasional statements by military officials will keep the waters muddy and encourage Tehran to keep supporting insurgents and force the US leave Afghanistan in a shameful defeat at the hands of insurgents.
Abbas Daiyar is based in Kabul and affiliated with Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He is a member of the Atlantic Community and author of several articles. For more information please follow this link to Daiyar's blog.
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- David Neil Lebhar: How the US and Germany Can Win in Afghanistan
- Antonio Buttitta: Implications of a Nuclear Iran
- Florian Broschk: Little Opportunity for the West to Influence Iran