iran and afghanistan

Iran has given political and material support to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Western-backed government, but it also may have aided the Taliban guerrillas as a way of hedging its bets inside its eastern neighbor, NATO’s top general here suggested Monday.U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Taliban fighters are showing signs of better training, using combat techniques to pin down U.S. Special Forces soldiers comparable to “an advanced Western military.”Iran’s possible role in aiding insurgents has been a hotly debated topic in Iraq, and there were allegations from some Western and Persian Gulf governments last month that the Islamic government in Tehran is secretly bolstering Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan it is clear that the Taliban is receiving support, including arms from … elements of the Iranian regime,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in the Economist on May 31.Iran — already criticized by the West for a number of issues including its nuclear program — hotly disputes the accusation, saying it is part of a broad anti-Iranian campaign and that it makes no sense for a Shiite-led government like itself to assist the fundamentalist Sunni movement of the Taliban.McNeill, the commander of 36,000 troops in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said the indications cut both ways. There is “ample evidence” Iran is helping the Karzai government, particularly with road construction and electricity in western Afghanistan, but Iran may also have helped the Taliban and other political opponents of Karzai, he said.”So what does that add up to?” McNeill said. “It makes me think of a major American corporation that will give political campaign money to three or four different candidates for president of the United States. … This corporation wants to be aligned with whomever comes out on top.”McNeill, a 60-year-old four-star general from North Carolina who has fought in most American conflicts since Vietnam, said he had no hard evidence that the Iranian government has helped the Taliban. He said munitions, particularly mortar rounds, “clearly … made in Iran” have been found on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but said that does not prove that the Iranian government is formally involved in aiding Taliban fighters.”If I had the information, I would have no reservation about saying it,” he added.In a separate interview Monday, Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan denied his government is helping the Taliban.”This is not correct,” Mohammad R. Bahrami said at Iran’s Kabul embassy. “The return of extremism in Afghanistan will affect not only Afghanistan and the region, but the entire world.”

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