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Stop Iran-Taliban cooperation, US to Karzai
Hamid Mir in Kabul | August 12, 2007 15:46 IST
The US government has urged Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to stop a secret Iran-Taliban pact against North Atlantic Treaty Organistion troops in Afghanistan.
President Karzai is not ready to admit any negative Iranian role in Afghanistan publicly, but he have given secret assurance to US officials that he will speak with the Iranian government on this issue very soon.
For the first time in the last six years, Afghan security officials have started claiming that Iran is secretly providing highly sophisticated weapons to Taliban from its western borders.
Col Rehmatullah Saafi, security incharge of the areas bordering Iran, told this scribe that he has provided all the details with evidence to his seniors about the secret Iran-Taliban cooperation in the western Afghanistan.
Saafi said Iran is playing a dangerous double game in Afghanistan. "We know the names of the people getting training inside Iranian territory and we have also arrested carriers of heavy weapons coming from Iran to the Islam Qala area close to Herat," claimed Saafi.
Saafi added that Iran is arming Taliban with bombs for use on road-sides, small missiles and other high grade explosives, which are also in use against US troops in Iraq.
He claimed that his commandos arrested more than a dozen people carrying Russian and Chinese marked crates filled with sophisticated weapons on the Iranian border in last few weeks.
Col. Thomas Kelly of US Army also claimed that "Iranian supplied weapons are a major threat for NATO forces in Afghanistan."
Highly placed diplomatic sources in Kabul have informed that US officials have secretly requested not only President Hamid Karzai, but also President Pervez Musharraf [Images] to speak with the Iranian government on this issue because both Pakistan and Afghanistan will suffer adversely if Iran does not stop arming Taliban secretly.
This issue was also discussed in a recent meeting between President Karzai and President Bush at Camp David, US. Both leaders publicly differed on their perception of Tehran's role in the context of Afghanistan.
Karzai said that Iran's role in his country is positive, but Bush differed with him.
Government sources in Kabul revealed that Iran was not happy about developments like Pak-Afghan Grand peace jirga.
The Iranian government fears that US will try to make an anti-Iran alliance through the jirga, but President Karzai is determined to hold the jirga.
Karzai has assured Iran time and again that Afghanistan will not be used against Iran at any cost.
Despite his assurances to the Iranian government, it was the first time that government controlled Afghanistan Times expressed concern over the flow of weapons to Taliban from Iran in its editorial of August 11.
This newspaper is considered as the mouth piece of Afghan government. The editorial of Afghanistan Times was a great surprise for many in the Afghan capital who think that Karzai's administration is not strong enough to open a new front against Iran because they are already fighting a war of words with Pakistan since a long time.
Taliban sources in Afghanistan are not ready to confirm their new secret alliance with an old enemy country that helped Northern Alliance to dislodge Taliban from Kabul in December 2001.
Taliban held their first ever public press conference on Saturday in Ghazni against the Karzai government.
They gave a clear message to more than 25 journalists that Karzai had no writ in areas outside Kabul.
Taliban kidnapped 23 South Koreans many days ago. Afghan government and NATO forces failed to rescue these Koreans.
Two of them were killed and rest 21 are still with the Taliban. Koreans officials are directly negotiating with Taliban for the release of their citizens because Afghan officials are not in a position to facilitate that.
Many journalists, including this scribe, visited Ghazni province and noticed that Taliban has more modern weapons than the Afghan security forces.
Taliban commander Maulvi Anas Sharif spoke to this scribe on telephone from an undisclosed location in Andore and denied Iran's involvement in their revitalised movement. He said, "Yes we are purchasing modern weapons from smugglers, but we are not in touch with any foreign government."
Some analysts in Kabul said that Iran is trying to engage Taliban secretly just to make sure that the hardline Sunni fighters will not help Sunni Iranian separatists active in Iranian Kurdistan.
Some analysts have a different view. They argue that the US Army is surrounding Iran from Iraq and also from Afghanistan and Iranians have a right to puncture and fight back American conspiracies even through Taliban.
Iranian Ambassador in Afghanistan Muhammad Raza Bahram denied claims of a secret Iran-Taliban pact made by Afghan and NATO officials.