As NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan prepare for the Taliban to launch its spring offensive, one that is expected to see a marked increase in suicide bombings, reports have surfaced that Iran is stepping up its ongoing efforts to arm, train and provide safe haven to both Taliban and al-Qaeda forces.
The reports of increased Iranian involvement in the Afghan conflict include a confession by a captured Taliban commander who claimed that Iran is arming and training his terror organization as well as reports that Iran is releasing top al-Qaeda terrorists from custody.
The captured Taliban commander, Mullah Gul Ahmad, claimed he was recruited by Iran’s special Qods Force in the eastern Iranian town of Zahedan. According to Ahmad, “I studied at a religious school in Iran where someone named Khaled provoked me to perform jihad against Americans.”
Whether Ahmad was provoked into waging jihad or not may be up for some debate. However, what isn’t at issue is that his story of terror training camps in Iran has been confirmed by other Islamic fighters. Sayed Mohammad Faqir Askar, a police chief in Afghanistan’s Farah province, says other insurgents have confessed “they are trained in how to use weapons and lay mines…in the Baluchistan area of Iran.”
Ahmad’s confession came at the same time US Rear Admiral Gregory Smith blasted Iran for “offering support in training, financial support, and equipment to Afghan militants.”
Specifically, Iran’s Ansar Corps, a subunit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) elite Qods Force, is accused of providing training for Taliban and al Qaeda forces. Based in the northeastern Iranian cities of Mashad and Tayyebat, the Ansar Corps operates much like Iran’s Ramazan Corps, which trains and arms Shiite terror groups in Iraq.
The Ansar Corps is also accused of playing an even more participatory role in the Afghan conflict by staging combat operations in the remote western Afghan province of Farah, the main transit point for entrance of foreign fighters and Iranian aid to Afghanistan.
Added into all of these nefarious activities is the ominous news that Iran has since December 2010 been releasing top al Qaeda terrorists from jail so that they can rebuild the organization on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border
Among those reportedly released have been Saif al Adel, al Qaeda’s top military commander; Sa’ad bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s son; Sulaiman Abu Gaith, a top al Qaeda spokesman; and Abu Khayr al Masri, an aide to al Qaeda deputy leader, Ayman al Zawahiri.
Pakistani intelligence officials have even confirmed that al Adel has since been named as al Qaeda’s chief of operations for Afghanistan and Pakistan and has been responsible for organizing recent attacks on both sides of the border.
Of course, Iran has been quick to deny any and all of these allegations. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has emphatically stated, “We do not support any group. We just and only support the Afghan people. We support and we want to strengthen security in Afghanistan.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, has not only said the accusations are “baseless and unacceptable,” but has added, “What is worrying American officials is the wave of popular protests against the US presence in the region.” In reality, what is worrying Americans has been the exponential growth of Iranian involvement in funding efforts to destabilize Afghanistan and kill American soldiers.