Iran arming Taliban, says top Afghan general

Afghan commandos participate in a combat training exercise at Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province. Marines in Helmand say President Donald Trump’s decision to keep boots on the ground indefinitely gives them ‘all the time in the world’ to retake the province, once the symbol of US intervention but now a Taliban stronghold. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2017
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Iran arming Taliban, says top Afghan general

KABUL: Iran provides arms and military equipment to Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan, an army chief has claimed, marking the first confirmation from a high-ranking official of the war-torn country.
President Ashraf Ghani raised the matter with his Iranian counterpart during his recent visit to Tehran, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Sharif Yaftali, chief of general staff for the Afghan National Army, told the BBC Persian Service.
Yaftali said Kabul had documents showing “Iran was providing arms and military equipment to the Taliban in western Afghanistan.” He gave no further details.
Some local officials in western Afghanistan in the past had spoken about Iran’s role in the Afghan war and its backing of the insurgents.
Yaftali’s comments are however the first from a high-ranking Afghan official pointing to Iran’s alleged support for the Taliban.
Taliban spokesmen were unavailable for comment, and the Iranian embassy in Kabul could not immediately be reached. Tehran, which opposes the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, has in the past rejected claims that it backs the Taliban.
Dawlat Waziri, the chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense on Thursday said Yaftali’s comments were “misquoted” and that he expects a correction. He told Arab News that Afghanistan had “reports, not evidence about Iran’s involvement” and that it was verifying the reports.
Others say however that there is firm evidence that Iran is supporting the fundamentalist political group.
“Iranian land mines and weapons are used by the Taliban and it is directly engaged in supporting the Taliban militarily and financially,” analyst Bashir Bezhen told Arab News.
“It has its reservations over water distribution with Afghanistan and secondly is locked in a deep rivalry with the US in Afghanistan. It wants to see the US defeat and ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Iran has long been at loggerheads with Kabul, often over water disputes.
Much to Kabul’s anguish, Iran has in recent years officially hosted mid-ranking Taliban commanders at gatherings of Islamic scholars. Reports of its military and financial backing of the Taliban have increased ever since Ghani’s government signed a strategic security pact with Washington in 2014.
Former Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan last year, was reportedly en-route there from Iran where, according to media reports, many mid-ranking Taliban commanders have transferred their families to live.
Some Afghan observers say Iran is part of a regional block pushing the withdrawal of US troops that overthrew the Taliban regime 16 years ago in Afghanistan.


Trump aims new blasts at McCain, claims credit for funeral

Updated 21 March 2019
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Trump aims new blasts at McCain, claims credit for funeral

  • Trump ranted without citing evidence that McCain had pushed for a war and failed America’s veterans
  • Not only the McCain family but the nation “deserves better” than Trump’s disparagement — Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia

WASHINGTON: Casting aside rare censure from Republican lawmakers, President Donald Trump aimed new blasts of invective at the late John McCain Wednesday, even claiming credit for the senator’s moving Washington funeral and complaining he was never properly thanked.
By the time the president began his anti-McCain tirade in Ohio, several leading Republicans had signaled a new willingness to defy Trump by defending the Vietnam War veteran as a hero seven months after he died of brain cancer. One GOP senator called Trump’s remarks “deplorable.”
Trump then launched a lengthy rant in which he claimed without citing evidence that McCain had pushed for a war and failed America’s veterans.
“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted,” Trump told reporters at a campaign-style rally in Lima, Ohio. “I didn’t get (a) thank you but that’s OK.”
In fact, McCain’s family made clear that Trump was not welcome during the week-long, cross-country ceremonies that the senator had planned himself. Instead, McCain invited former Presidents George W. Bush, who defeated McCain during the 2000 GOP nomination fight, and Barack Obama, who defeated him in 2008, to deliver eulogies on the value of pursuing goals greater than oneself. Trump signed off on the military transport of McCain’s body, went golfing and was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter during the Washington events.
Trump’s publicly nursed grudge against McCain has not appeared to alienate core supporters, some of whom had soured on the senator by the time of his death. Aware of this, GOP lawmakers until now have stayed subdued or silent though Trump sometimes infuriated them with his comments on their late colleague.
McCain’s allies suggested it was time for that to change.
“I hope (Trump’s) indecency to John’s memory and to the McCain family will convince more officeholders that they can’t ignore the damage Trump is doing to politics and to the country’s well-being or remain silent despite their concerns,” said Mark Salter, McCain’s biographer. “They must speak up.”
Trump has said for years that he doesn’t think McCain is a hero because the senator was captured in Vietnam. McCain was tortured and held prisoner for more than five years.
The president has never served in the military and obtained a series of deferments to avoid going to Vietnam, including one attained with a physician’s letter stating that he suffered from bone spurs in his feet.
One McCain Senate vote in particular is the thumbs-down Trump can’t seem to forget. The Arizona senator in 2017 sank the GOP effort to repeal Obama’s health care law. Trump was furious, and it showed even in the days after McCain’s death last August. The administration lowered the American flag over the White House to half-staff when McCain died on a Saturday, but then raised it by Monday. After public outcry, the White House flags were again lowered.
This week, Trump unloaded a new series of anti-McCain tweets in which he said he never had been “a fan” and never would be.
His relentless new targeting of the deceased senator seemed to cross a boundary for several Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called McCain “a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.” McConnell tweeted, “His memory continues to remind me every day that our nation is sustained by the sacrifices of heroes.”
The Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election next year, never mentioned Trump, but others weren’t so shy.
Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said not only the McCain family but the nation “deserves better” than Trump’s disparagement.
“I don’t care if he’s president of the United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world,” Isakson told The Bulwark, a conservative news and opinion website. Later, Isakson called Trump’s remarks “deplorable.”
“It will (be) deplorable seven months from now if he says it again,” Isakson continued in remarks on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Political Rewind radio show, “and I will continue to speak out.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee whom Trump briefly considered nominating as secretary of state, tweeted praise for McCain on Tuesday — and criticism of Trump.
“I can’t understand why the President would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain: heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic, and driven by duty to family, country, and God,” Romney wrote.
Pushback also came from Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican Air Force veteran appointed to McCain’s seat from Arizona.
“John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona,” she tweeted Wednesday. “Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.”
That McSally declined to criticize Trump directly reflected the broader wariness among Republicans to cross a president famous for mobilizing his followers against GOP lawmakers he deems disloyal. But this week, Trump seemed to inspire a new determination among some to draw a line, however delicately.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who wept openly on the Senate floor after McCain died but has allied himself strongly with Trump, said, “I think the president’s comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain.”
“A lot of people are coming to John’s defense now. ... I don’t like it when he says things about my friend John McCain.”
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, were eager to jump into the uproar.
“I look forward to soon re-introducing my legislation re-naming the Senate Russell Building after American hero, Senator John McCain,” tweeted Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York.