https://afghanistan.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_st/features/2017/09/19/feature-01
| Security

Afghan Taliban using Iranian-made weapons, says top official

By Sulaiman

image

A weapon bearing an Iranian insignia was reportedly seized from the Taliban after battles in Helmand Province in March. [File]

KABUL -- Afghanistan's top military officials say there is evidence confirming that Iran is providing the Taliban with weapons and military equipment in western Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, chief of general staff for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), recently contributed his assessment on Iran's support for the Taliban in an interview with the BBC Persian Service.

While many other Afghan officials have voiced similar concerns, this is the first time Afghanistan's top military officer has commented on the situation.

Afghanistan has documents proving "Iran was providing arms and military equipment to the Taliban in western Afghanistan", Yaftali said September 6, without elaborating on what type of documents or evidence the government has in its possession.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani discussed the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his visit to Tehran in August, Yaftali said.

Afghanistan is working to resolve this issue through negotiations and mutual understanding and will take necessary measures, he said.

Iranian-made weapons in Taliban hands

Officials in western Afghanistan back up Yaftali's claim that Iran is providing financial and arms support to the Taliban.

"According to the information provided to us by intelligence apparatus and local residents, [Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] Quds Force's military advisers are present in Pusht-e-Koh and Gulistan districts, Farah Province, which share a border with Iran," Naser Mehri, a spokesman for the Farah provincial governor, told Salaam Times.

"They provide the Taliban with weapons and military equipment, as well as military advice," he said.

Taliban forces use Iranian-made weapons in battles in Farah Province, Mehri said, adding that in numerous cases the ANDSF have seized weapons with Iranian insignia.

"Iran is directly involved in creating insecurity in [Afghanistan's] western provinces," Abdul Samad Salehi, a member of the Farah Provincial Council, told Salaam Times.

"Over the past two years, the Iranian intelligence apparatus, along with several Taliban commanders, have been using border regions such as Pusht-e-Koh District to go in and out of Farah Province," he said.

"Through promising residency cards for their families and paying sums of money, the Iranian government has encouraged some Afghan refugees to join the Taliban, practically using them as a combat force against the Afghan security forces," Salehi said.

This pattern became clear during repeated Taliban attacks in Farah Province last year, he said.

"Among the dead Taliban members were several Afghan refugees who had settled in Iran," he said. "Moreover, all their weapons, which were confiscated by the Afghan security forces, were in fact Iranian-made."

In addition, wounded Taliban members are hospitalised in Iran, according to Salehi.

Recruiting vulnerable Afghans

Mohammad Zubair, a resident of Gulistan District, Farah Province, said he witnessed Iranian intelligence agencies' recruitment of Afghans.

"I used to live in Zahedan, Iran, about a year and a half ago," he told Salaam Times. "At that time, Iran's intelligence service was vigorously trying to attract migrant Afghans to join the Taliban."

"It said that the Taliban would soon take control of Farah Province, and if you want to stay with your family in Iran forever, without any problems, then you should just join the Taliban and fight for a short time in Afghanistan," he said.

"Several of my Afghan co-workers were deceived by the Iranian military personnel and joined the Taliban," Zubair said, adding that he has not heard from his co-workers since they were recruited.

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I am one of the military personnel in Farah. My contract ended this year on 1396/2/26 [05/16/2017.] Last year, I personally witnessed the same thing to which you are referring in the context of your article. We suffered heavy casualties and the capital city of Farah province was on the verge of collapse. We were able to eventually crack down on the Taliban only after the arrival of the U.S. Forces. The interesting point for us was the presence of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] personnel among the dead [militants.]

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