LONDON: A US intelligence report said Iran paid bounties to the Taliban for at least six attacks carried out against US and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The report, seen by CNN, said “bounties” were paid by a foreign government — identified separately as Iran — to the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-linked group responsible for countless attacks in Afghanistan.
CNN reported that the Haqqani Network was paid for a December suicide attack on the Bagram military base, the most prominent US facility in Afghanistan, which killed two civilians and injured more than 70 others, including four US military personnel.
A joint intelligence assessment produced by the US Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center released last month said Iran reimbursed the Haqqani Network after it conducted the Bagram attack and at least five others against US and coalition targets throughout 2019.
A state department official told CNN that Tehran’s “support to some elements of the Taliban has threatened to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — responsible for Iran’s foreign clandestine operations — regularly uses proxies to pursue its goals in other countries, and US officials from the National Security Council have long seen the Tehran-Taliban relationship as “a significant threat to US interests.”
But a source told CNN that the US refrained from a comprehensive diplomatic or military response to the relationship, as well as to specific attacks, in order to protect the ongoing Afghan-Taliban peace negotiations.
Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. Rob Lodewick, told CNN: “The administration has repeatedly demanded, both publicly and privately, that Iran cease its scourge of malign and destabilizing behavior throughout the Middle East and the world.
“While the United States, its NATO allies and coalition partners are working to facilitate an end to 19 years of bloodshed, Iran's inimical influence seeks to undermine the Afghan peace process and foster a continuation of violence and instability,” he said.
Previous US intelligence reports have indicated that Russia also paid bounties to the Taliban to attack American forces in Afghanistan, and the issue has stirred significant anger in the US.