Daily Telegraph: British troops in Afghanistan are being targeted by surface-to-air missiles supplied by Iran, a senior Army source said yesterday. The Daily Telegraph
By Thomas Harding in Lashkah Gah
British troops in Afghanistan are being targeted by surface-to-air missiles supplied by Iran, a senior Army source said yesterday.
Officers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are supplying hundreds of weapons, including the missiles, to Taliban insurgents, it is believed.
Most worrying is the news that SA7 Strella anti-aircraft missiles have been supplied to the Taliban. The weapons are a serious threat to helicopters supplying more than 6,000 troops.
It is not thought the Taliban are well trained in how to use the weapons most effectively. In southern Helmand yesterday they fired an anti-aircraft weapon at an American F18 fighter without hitting it.
Other weapons being smuggled in include plastic explosives, anti-tank mines, AK47s, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.
Arms have been discovered by American Special Forces teams working alongside the Afghan National Army.
“There is reporting that leads us to believe a number of agencies, that possibly include Iranian organisations, are significantly supporting the Taliban,” a military intelligence source told The Daily Telegraph.
His remarks are the most authoritative confirmation that British and other Nato forces face an increasingly sophisticated threat from Iranian supplied arms.
British forces have been in Afghanistan for six years, having helped the American-led campaign to destroy al-Qa’eda training camps and topple the Taliban regime in November 2001. More than 40 Britons have died on active duty.
But it was only last year that large numbers of British soldiers directly confronted Taliban gunmen in their former strongholds.
Since the arrival of the British, the tempo of the fighting has significantly increased. Under these conditions, the Taliban need to maintain a continuous flow of arms and ammunition.
The weapons are believed to come directly from Iran or are smuggled in by dealers. Most are brought across the poorly-patrolled border into Nomruz province and taken on trucks or donkeys to the Sangin valley where they are used against British troops.
The Taliban may spend about £100 million on military operations every year. Much of this sum comes from donors in the Middle East, but there is a big input from the proceeds of opium poppy growing.
The Shia-dominated Teheran regime and the Sunni extremist Taliban are far from natural allies. In fact, the Taliban’s brand of religious zealotry holds that Shias are not genuine Muslims.
But the arrival of western troops in Afghanistan may have altered Iran’s calculations. This has provided the Teheran regime and the Taliban with a common enemy.
There is no evidence that the technology behind the advanced roadside bombs that have penetrated at least four British armoured vehicles in southern Iraq has arrived in Afghanistan. But Iran is thought to have showed the Taliban how to make basic roadside bombs from old land-mines.
It was fear of Iranian backed bomb-making technology that was partly behind the decision that Prince Harry should not go to Maysan province.
A British serviceman was gravely wounded and a lorry driver killed in an ambush on a military supply convoy in Basra yesterday as troops clashed with militia fighters across the southern Iraqi city.
The attackers were said to be members of the Mahdi army, the militia of Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which is waging a struggle to wrest control of Basra from the British-backed local government.