Concern in US over increasing Iranian activity in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (PAN): US senators have raised concerns about increasing Iranian activity in Afghanistan, which, according to the top US commander in the country, includes the selling of high powered munitions to insurgents.
“We do see certainly Iranian activity to use both soft power in the way that they shut off the fuel going into Afghanistan a couple of months ago, and also certainly to influence the political process there as well in ways similar to what we saw in Iraq,” Gen. David Petraeus, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan told a Congressional hearing.
“We did interdict a shipment, without question the Revolutionary Guard's core Quds Force, through a known Taliban facilitator. Three of the individuals were killed… 48 122 millimetre rockets were intercepted with their various components,” Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Petraeus said the rockets had more than double the range and “bursting power” of the 107 millimetre rockets typically seen in Afghanistan.
Iranhas “without question” provided weapons, training and funding to the Taliban, Petraeus said, but added it was still in measured amounts. “It's certainly not an all-out escalation or something like that. And we think, again, that's because they are conflicted,” he noted, adding that they want to provide enough assistance to the Taliban so that they make life difficult for the US, but not so much that they might actually succeed.
Senator Susan Collins asked the general if it was possible to win the war when Pakistan tolerated sanctuaries within its borders and Iran provided weapons, money and, training.
“Iranians certainly view as making life more difficult for us if Afghanistan is unstable. We don't have that kind of relationship with the Iranians. That's why I am particularly troubled by the interception of weapons coming from Iran. But we know that it's more than weapons; it's money; it's also according to some reports, training at Iranian camps as well,” she said.
Petraeus said there was a significant amount of trade and economic activity between the two countries and that Iran did not want to upset that.
“Iran knows that if Afghanistan is over time able to develop the infrastructure, human capital, value chains and so forth to extract and to export the trillions of dollars of minerals in its soil, that it wants to have a good relationship with Afghanistan for that time, and indeed to have some of those exported through Afghanistan's neighbour to the west and not be shut out of what the Afghan President Hamid Karzai terms the ‘Asian roundabout’,” Petraeus said.