AP: The top NATO commander in Afghanistan alleged Thursday that the Iranian military was involved in a shipment of sophisticated explosive devices intercepted by his troops in western Afghanistan last month. The Associated Press
By FISNIK ABRASHI
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) The top NATO commander in Afghanistan alleged Thursday that the Iranian military was involved in a shipment of sophisticated explosive devices intercepted by his troops in western Afghanistan last month.
U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, the commander of NATO’s 40,000-strong International Security Assistance Force, said the convoy intercepted on Sept. 5 contained “a number of advanced technology improvised explosive devices.”
“This weapons convoy clearly, geographically, originated in Iran,” McNeill told reporters in Kabul.
“It is difficult for me to conceive that this convoy could have originated in Iran and come to Afghanistan, without at least the knowledge of the Iranian military,” he said, without providing details of the evidence underlying the accusation.
McNeill told The Washington Post last month that the Sept. 5 shipment contained devices similar to those used in Iraq, where the U.S. military has accused Iran of supplying Shiite insurgents with the materials and know-how to produce explosively formed penetrators, which send slugs of molten copper through vehicle armor.
Iran disputes the accusations, saying they are part of a broad campaign against Iran, which is locked in a showdown with the U.S. over issues including Iraq and the Islamic Republic’s nuclear aspirations. Iran says it makes no sense for a Shiite country to assist the fundamentalist Sunni Taliban, who killed 11 Iranians including consular officials and a journalist in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.
The insurgents in Afghanistan have increased their use of roadside bombs this year to target foreign and Afghan troops as part of a strategy to weaken the government of President Hamid Karzai and force foreign troops to leave the country.
Military officials and analysts say Taliban militants have long copied Iraqi insurgents’ tactics, but suicide and roadside bombs here have never been anywhere near as deadly or sophisticated as those in Iraq, where armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles have killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers.
McNeill did not provide any further details about the type of weapons intercepted and whether those devices have been used against NATO or Afghan troops here.
Afghanistan is going through its most violent year since the ouster of the Taliban regime in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. More than 5,200 people mostly militants have died this year as a result of fighting, according to an Associated Press count based on official figures.
McNeill said that between 20 percent and 40 percent of the insurgency is financed by drug money, which also has a corrupting influence in the government.
Afghanistan has doubled its opium production over the past two years. Poppy plants now grow on 477,000 acres of Afghan land and account for 93 percent of the world’s opium output, according to the United Nations.
The farm value of Afghanistan’s annual crop is about $1 billion and the street-sale value of the heroin produced from it is more than $3 billion, the U.N. says.