Iran continues to provide "calibrated lethal aide to the Taliban" in Afghanistan to help the group conduct attacks on U.S. and Western security forces operating in the country, according to a new report published by the Pentagon.
Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has been supplying various arms to the Taliban as part of Tehran’s mission of eradicating Western forces and preventing the United States from safely establishing permanent bases in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon’s 2014 "Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan" report, which was published in October.
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The arms are being provided by Iran as a supplement to a $1 billion aid program aimed at keeping the Afghan government firmly in Tehran’s corner, according to the report.
Details of Iran’s clandestine support for the Taliban come as the Obama administration quietly continues its efforts to enlist Iran in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
President Barack Obama secretly wrote to the Iranian Supreme Leader in mid-October to express his willingness to partner with Tehran in the fight against IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL), the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Iran’s support of terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan highlights the difficulty of attempting to form a military alliance with a rogue country that continues to explicitly fight against U.S. interests.
"The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force provides calibrated lethal aid to the Taliban to attrite ISAF [the International Security Assistance Force] and expedite force withdrawal," the Pentagon wrote in its latest report.
"Tehran opposes the establishment of permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan," the report concludes. "At a minimum, Iran seeks to ensure its security concerns are addressed by maintaining pressure on [Afghani government] officials and seeking its own security agreement with Kabul."
Iran’s support for the Taliban includes "lethal assistance," such as weapons and training for insurgents, according to the report.
"Iran continued to provide lethal assistance, including light weapons and training, to elements of the Taliban and other insurgent groups," the Pentagon wrote. "Since 2007, coalition and Afghan forces interdicted several shipments of Iranian weapons."
Iran’s overarching goal in Afghanistan is to woo the government to its side with a combination of aid packages meant to show that the country does not need to rely on Western handouts.
While Tehran supports the Taliban, its stated goals "in Afghanistan remain focused on maintaining friendly relations with the Afghan central government, preventing a Taliban return to power, and minimizing western presence and influence," the Pentagon noted.
This strategy includes "employing a soft-power campaign to promote a pro-Iranian and pro-Shia sentiment within Afghanistan," the report states.
Tehran has worked toward this goal by instating a $1 billion aid program in Afghanistan that seeks to "upgrade infrastructure, provide humanitarian, cultural/religious support, and economic assistance," according to the report.
This aid program closely resembles those sponsored by the U.S. government.
"Iran intends to increase its influence among the local population in order to foster pro-Iranian sentiment," the Pentagon report states. "Iran also wants to expand its sphere of influence beyond border regions into other parts of Afghanistan, particularly [the capital city of] Kabul."
Iran currently operates an embassy in Kabul and is attempting to establish consulates in other key areas across Afghanistan.
Former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin, who worked on both Iran and Iraq, said Obama’s multiple letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei show that he misunderstands the region.
"Khamenei mocked the U.S. on 9/11 after having helped the hijackers get back and forth to their al Qaeda camp," Rubin said. "And the Iranians provided direct aide and assistance to the Taliban to maim and kill Americans.
"Those who fall back on the notion that Sunnis and Shi’ites can’t work together forget that even the Iranian press—Hamshahri, Iran’s largest circulation daily—blessed the idea of working with the Taliban to kill Americans," Rubin said. "Khamenei is now the CEO of conspiracy central. He has perpetuated the idea that the U.S. created ISIS. Then, when Obama comes groveling to him—and make no mistake—that’s how he depicts it—he interprets it as a sign of weakness to exploit."