The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Monday that Iran is continuing to back Taliban forces, but its supply of training and weapons is insignificant.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and allied forces, said Iran’s “reach into Afghanistan, first, is fairly legitimate” and includes money and education support.
“There is evidence, intelligence that indicates some malign activity as well: some training of insurgents, Taliban, and of shipments of some levels of arms,” the four-star general told reporters at the White House. “But they are not significant in numbers, and they have not been enough to change the basic calculus of the fight at this point.”
The general’s comments contrast with a recent Pentagon report to Congress that said Iran is seeking to counter U.S. influence by expanding ties to terrorists and insurgents.
“Iran is attempting to secure political, economic and security influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, while undermining U.S. efforts by supporting various political groups, providing developmental and humanitarian assistance, and furnishing lethal aid to Iraqi Shia militants and Afghan insurgents,” the report said.
The report said Iran is helping nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan, but also backing terrorist groups, including those headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ismail Khan.
“Arms caches have been recently uncovered with large amounts of Iranian-manufactured weapons, to include 107 mm rockets, which we assess [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force] delivered to Afghan militants,” the report said, noting that manufacturing dates indicate “lethal support is ongoing.”
On U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal said progress in defeating the Taliban will take time. Current military efforts are focused on undermining Taliban control in the southern part of the country and Kandahar, he said.
“We will encounter increased violence as our combined security forces expand into Taliban-controlled areas,” he said, adding that the new strategy is seeking to shift the momentum of military and civilian reconstruction efforts to Afghan forces.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, offered a cautious assessment of U.S. and allied efforts in Afghanistan, declining to say whether a recent surge of troops over the past several months has produced progress.
“We’re confident that we’re much better postured to help deliver the progress needed in the months ahead,” he said.
Both officials spoke before the U.S. visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whom President Obama recently pressured to curb corruption in his government. In response at one point, Mr. Karzai suggested he would join the Taliban to protest U.S. intervention.
The Karzai visit appears designed to patch up differences between the U.S. and Afghanistan. U.S. officials said they hope to use the visit to focus on the shared goals of security and fostering reconciliation with some members of the Taliban.
White House officials sought to tamp down perceptions of tension Friday in a conference call with reporters.
“We will expect occasionally — as we do with other allies and partners — occasional ups and downs, but these aren’t going to deter us from meeting our common objectives,” said Gen. Douglas Lute, special assistant to the president for Afghanistan and Pakistan.View Entire Story
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
The young drop coverage to avoid higher premiums
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
The “Silver Tsunami” created by aging Baby Boomers is hitting America. Let’s explore how we adjust to it, enjoy it and defy negative expectations about age.
Viewing and reviewing the Los Angeles experimental and classic punk scene with a nod to Rodney's English Disco
Richard Ivory, editor-in-chief of Hip Hop Republicans and HHR at Communities Digital News, turns his interests, and pen, to the people making news today.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc