Monday, June 11, 2007

General McNeill: Iran may be aiding Taliban to hedge bets, cites improving tactics

Taliban fighters.

KABUL, Afghanistan: Iran has given political and material support to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government, but it also may have aided the Taliban guerrillas as a way of hedging its bets inside its eastern neighbor, NATO's top general here suggested Monday.

U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Taliban fighters are showing signs of better training, using combat techniques to pin down U.S. Special Forces soldiers comparable to "an advanced Western military."

Iran's possible role in aiding insurgents has been a hotly debated topic in Iraq, and there were allegations from some Western and Persian Gulf governments last month that the Islamic government in Tehran is secretly bolstering Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. "In Afghanistan it is clear that the Taliban is receiving support, including arms from ... elements of the Iranian regime," British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in the Economist on May 31...

McNeill, the commander of 36,000 troops in NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the indications cut both ways. There is "ample evidence" Iran is helping the Karzai government, particularly with road construction and electricity in western Afghanistan, but Iran may also have helped the Taliban and other political opponents of Karzai, he said.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune