Diplomatic cables from back in 2007 note Afghan President Hamid Karzai urging that Iran’s “lethal assistance to the Taliban must be stopped before it reaches the levels of similar assistance to insurgents in Iraq.”
In March 2010, General David Petraeus, then the CENTCOM commander and now the ISAF commander, claimed “Al Qaeda continues to use Iran as a key facilitation hub, where facilitators connect al Qaeda’s senior leadership to regional affiliates.”
In May 2010, former ISAF General Stanley McChrystal said, “The training that we have seen occurs inside Iran with fighters moving inside Iran. The weapons that we have received come from Iran into Afghanistan.”
Finally, in its August 2010 Country Reports on Terrorism, the US State Department reported that Iran was continuing to sponsor terrorist groups that are killing American soldiers in Afghanistan by “training and arming the Taliban and providing safe haven for al Qaeda members.”
Moreover, the report stated that Iran’s Qods Force is “the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad,” and accomplishes that task by training and arranging arms shipments Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents.
Unfortunately, Iranian efforts to kill US troops go far beyond just training, arming and providing safe haven to Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. Iran has also been found to be placing bounties on American soldiers.
Reports abound of Iran paying Taliban fighters $1,000 for each US soldier they kill in Afghanistan and $6,000 for the destruction of a US military vehicle. In fact, one man, known as a “Taliban treasurer” boasted he had collected $18,000 from an Iranian firm in the Afghan capital city of Kabul. In total, the man claimed to have collected $77,000 from the company and noted that there were at least five Kabul-based Iranian companies providing the same service.
Yet skeptics continue to dismiss claims of an Iranian-Taliban-Al Qaeda alliance primarily because of the ideological differences between Shiite Muslim–who make up most of Iran’s population–and Sunni Muslims who comprise the vast majority of both the Taliban and al Qaeda. Furthermore, they point out that Iran supported the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and participated in the conference that installed Kabul’s current government.
For others, however, finding partnership based on a common enemy trumps ideological differences. That view has been echoed by former British Prime Minister Tony when he said in January 2011 that one of the biggest lessons he drew from the Iraq war was the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda, a partnership which he felt was the main driver of the violence that engulfed Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
As one Taliban fighter explained: “It is a marriage of convenience…because Americans are dangerous for them as well. I think the hatred is the same from both us and Iran.”
So, while US military commanders still remain optimistic that the tide has begun to turn against the insurgent groups, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the second in command in Afghanistan, still cautions: “We won’t know that until the spring.” Unfortunately, Iran—and its Taliban and al Qaeda proxies—are determined to provide an unwelcome response to that question.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.