Radiofarda – Chief of Police of Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan has said that Afghan intelligence services have evidence Iran is supplying the Taliban with Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
In an exclusive interview with Radio Azadi (Afghan Service of Radio Liberty/Radio Azadi ) on February 18 General Muhammed Haya said that the Taliban in Farah Province who have received the weapons are trying to transfer them to Uruzgan to attack Afghan military planes in the region.
General Haya also alleged that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is funding the Taliban to fight Afghan and American forces and their allies.
Afghanistan’s Interior and Defense Ministry officials have not made any comments about Iran’s provision of anti-aircraft missiles to the Taliban.
Taliban Spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmad recently claimed that using its own weapons, the group has downed several Afghan military aircraft.
“At least in the current year, the Taliban has not downed any of our planes,” Deputy Spokesman of the Defense Ministry of Afghanistan, Fuad Aman, told Radio Azadi and added that technical issues were responsible for the recent crash of two planes in Balkh and Farrah provinces. The crash in Farah killed two pilots.SEE ALSO:Three Decades Of Iran’s Qods Force And Its New Commander
“Iran will reinforce groups such as the Taliban in general, and Al-Qaida in particular, to target Americans and their allies in Afghanistan. A few months ago, there were reports that Iran was supplying Al-Qaida with missiles to target American bases. I think these concerns have deepened now,” Hikmatullah Azami, a counter-terrorism and security expert in Kabul, told Radio Azadi.
Tehran denies assisting the Taliban but has officially admitted to having contacts with the group.
In November 2019 a high-ranking Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group’s founders, visited Tehran after talks in Moscow. Mullah Abdul Ghani held meetings with Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif according to these reports.
Earlier in September, a week after peace talks between the group and the United States collapsed, another Taliban delegation held discussions with Zarif in Tehran.
Iran’s new Qods Force Commander Esmail Qaani’s connections with Afghanistan have become highly controversial in the country when an Afghan journalist revealed that the commander had faked his identity in a meeting with an Afghan regional official in 2018.
Iran’s Qods Force has for many years supported various factions in Afghanistan including the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.
Iran’s Qods has also mobilized immigrant Afghan workers in Iran to form the Fatemiyoun Division, a paramilitary group consisting of Afghan Shiites, to fight alongside Iranian forces in Syria. Fatemiyoun Division which was formed in 2012 mainly consists of Shiite Hazaras.
Members of the division had a distinctive presence in the funeral ceremonies held for General Qassem Soleimani, the slain Commander of the Force, in November and could easily be spotted waving their yellow banners.
Fatemiyoun’s yellow flag was also displayed alongside the flags of several other groups including the Hezbollah of Lebanon on January 9 at the press conference of Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the Chief of Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Force.
The press conference was held after Iran’s missile attack on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. and other coalition forces in response to the killing of Soleimani on January 3. The Taliban condemned his killing in a statement on January 4.
In January 2019 the London-based Iran International TV journalist, Harun Najafizada, disclosed that Iran’s new Qods Force Commander Esmail Qaani had met in July 2019 with Tahir Zaheer, the Governor of Bamyan province. The disclosure was based on a photo posted on the Governor’s Facebook page in July.
In 2018 General Qaani was Deputy Commander of the Qods Force and its Ansar Headquarters which is responsible for Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.
The Facebook post introduced the Governor’s guest as Iran’s Deputy Ambassador in Afghanistan. Tahir Zaheer denied he had been aware of Qaani’s real identity and said the meeting had been set up by the Interior Ministry.
In a press conference in Kabul on January 7 the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan Edrees Zaman, stressed that Qaani had never been a deputy ambassador in Kabul and the ministry would investigate the allegations.
Tahir Zaheer who had met with Qaani said they had visited a hospital under construction by Iran and called for cooperation of the governorship “in case of security problems”.
- Maryam SinaieeMaryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.