OTTAWA: Weapons from Iran have turned up in Afghanistan in “significant quantities” over the last two years, which NATO says is causing it great concern. Threats from inside Iran are undermining the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, said NATO spokesman James Appathurai in a wide-ranging interview with Canwest News on the regional security threats to Afghanistan. “What we know is that weapons of Iranian origin have turned up in significant quantities inside Afghanistan and that is of significant concern to us,” said Appathurai, who was in Ottawa this week to meet with Canadian officials about Afghanistan. “I cannot speak to the origin or the design behind that. But I can say we would like it to stop. There is no doubt about that.”
Appathurai said signs of Iranian weapons emerged “in the last two years” and that the military is watching this “relatively recent phenomenon” very closely. Over that time, there have been periodic reports of shipments of arms, with apparent links to Iran, being seized by coalition forces inside Afghanistan. During a visit to Canadian troops in Kandahar this past Christmas, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said weapons from Iran are a threat in Afghanistan.
MacKay and others have been careful not to point fingers at the Iranian government, suggesting that elements within the Shiite country are seeking to maintain good relations with Iran, while attempting to make mischief for the western troops, particular American forces, inside Afghanistan.
Iran opposed Afghanistan’s former Taliban rulers and did not recognize their government. MacKay did not offer specifics on the Iranian involvement, nor did U.S. assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher earlier this month, when he repeated the allegation against Iran at a press conference in Paris. “Iran is interfering in a variety of ways,” Boucher said, but “not as violently as in Iraq.” Iran is a signatory to the international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai, in fact, has praised Tehran for helping refugees and fighting drug smuggling. Boucher suggested that although Tehran is supporting the Karzai government, it may also be “hedging its bets” by supporting its enemies in the Taliban insurgency.-SANA