Thursday, June 07, 2007

Taliban Fighters Use Iran Weapons

Iran has been caught "red-handed" shipping arms, explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to a new report that concludes the operations undoubtedly will prolong the conflict there. The report said the discovery reveals "a dramatic escalation of Iran's proxy war against the United States and Great Britain." "It is inconceivable that it is anyone other than the Iranian government that's doing it," said former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, now an news consultant. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates earlier in the week discussed the shipment of arms, but didn't name Iran, saying there wasn't yet evidence of connection between Iran and the Taliban. But an analysis that was obtained by reporters said the evidence does, in fact, exist. The report said that analysis found the shipments were "part of a considered policy, rather than the result of low-level corruption and weapons smuggling."The Taliban, which ran Afghanistan with a repressive military hand before the U.S. and coalition forces overturned its rule following the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and Iran had been enemies at that time, and many were surprised by the apparent working relationship. "I think their goal is to make it very clear that Iran has the capability to make life worse for the United States on a variety of fronts," Seth Jones of the Rand Institute told reporters, "even if they have to do some business with a group that has historically been their enemy." The obtained analysis said arms found in two convoys, on April 11 and May 3, had "clear indications that they originated in Iran. Some were identical to Iranian supplied goods previously discovered in Iraq." The report said the April convoy was tracked from Iran into Helmand province and led a fierce firefight that destroyed one vehicle. Another vehicle reportedly was found to contain small arms ammunition, mortar rounds and more than 650 pounds of C4 demolition charges. The report said a second convoy of two vehicles was spotted on May 3 and led to the capture of five occupants and the seizure of more explosives, as well as rockets. That evidence, along with the discovery of explosive formed projectiles, the roadside bombs U.S. officials say Iran has provided to Iraqi insurgents, "clearly have the hallmarks of the Iranian Revolution Guards Quds force," said Jones. "We believe these intercepted munitions are part of a much bigger flow of support from Iran to the Taliban," the analysis said. The development, concluded Jones, "means the insurgency in Afghanistan is likely to be prolonged."