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.


Nurse dead in Congo as Ebola vaccination campaign starts

Updated 29 min 16 sec ago
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Nurse dead in Congo as Ebola vaccination campaign starts

  • The have so far been 27 deaths in this latest outbreak of the killer disease
  • There are plans to distribute a vaccine which is due to have started Monday

KINSHASA, Congo: Congo’s health minister says a nurse has died from Ebola in Bikoro, the rural northwestern town where the outbreak began, as the country begins a vaccination campaign.
Health Minister Oly Ilunga said late Sunday that the nurse’s death brings the death toll to 27. There are now 49 hemorrhagic fever cases: 22 confirmed as Ebola, 21 probable and 6 suspected.
Ilunga said two patients have recovered from Ebola, returning home.
Congo’s health delegation, including the health minister, and representatives of the World Health Organization and United Nations have arrived in Mbandaka, the northwestern city of more than 1 million where Ebola has spread, to launch the vaccination campaign Monday. The ministry said it will take five days to target health care workers and 100 registered contacts in the city.