AFP: Iran’s political and military influence is growing in neighbouring Afghanistan with Iranian-made weapons reaching the Taliban militia, a US official said Wednesday. BRUSSELS, April 18, 2007 (AFP) – Iran’s political and military influence is growing in neighbouring Afghanistan with Iranian-made weapons reaching the Taliban militia, a US official said Wednesday.
“It’s been a developing issue of concern about Iran,” US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher told reporters in Brussels.
While Iran had been playing a helpful role in areas such as tackling the narcotics trade and in cultural and educational areas, the latest signs were worrying, he said.
“There have been a series of indicators that Iran is getting involved in a more unhealthy way,” he said.
US military chief General Peter Pace said Tuesday that coalition forces had intercepted Iranian-made mortars and explosives in Afghanistan destined for the Taliban.
Boucher confirmed these reports while adding that it remained unclear exactly who was providing the weapons.
“We don’t know who is doing this or why but we know that these are Iranian origin weapons that have shown up in the hands of the Taliban,” he said.
There were also “reports of involvement in political areas,” he added.
The way to tackle the Taliban militia is to expand the control of the Afghan government, he said, but neutralising its military threat, particularly its suicide attacks, would be a lengthy process.
He urged the international community to make a greater effort in Afghanistan and for NATO member countries to drop their “caveats” which impose conditions on what their troops do and where they are sent.