Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Weapons caches point to Iran

Source: Daily Telegraph
By Tom Coghlan in Kabul
Explosive devices similar to those supplied by Iran to militant groups in Iraq have been found for the first time in Afghanistan.

As concern mounts in Kabul over Iranian ambitions in the region, The Daily Telegraph has learned that three Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) devices have been found by Nato in Taliban weapons caches in the west of Afghanistan in recent weeks.

EFPs, a form of shaped charge, are used in devastating roadside bombs that have been able to defeat even the best Western tanks and armoured personnel carriers in Iraq.

They work by concentrating the explosive force of the device through a machine-turned concave copper plate, which is projected as a molten missile through the side of the targeted vehicle.

Britain has publicly accused Iran of supplying such devices to Shia militants in southern Iraq where they have caused the deaths of several dozen British soldiers.

Western diplomatic sources say that the devices found in Afghanistan are inferior to those seen in Iraq and therefore not in themselves conclusive proof of Iranian state supply to the Taliban. However, military sources in Kabul said that they offered clear evidence of a long-feared "technology transfer" from Iraq.

"There was an Explosively Formed Device found near Herat. Certain technologies are a cast-iron indicator of Iranian state involvement and this would be if it was from the right components," said one senior Western diplomat. Major John Thomas, a Nato spokesman, said: "These devices are sophisticated enough that we are very interested in finding the source of their manufacture so that we could prevent more from being made."

The disclosure came after American and Iranian diplomats met in Baghdad for the first talks between the two countries in almost three decades, with America accusing Iran of supplying arms to Iraqi militants.

There remains uncertainty over whether recent seizures of weapons along the Iranian border represent the work of the Iranian state, dissident elements within it, or a failure to control the movement of black market weapons.

British and American special forces have intercepted a number of truckloads of weapons crossing the Iranian border into Nimroz province.

The British embassy yesterday told The Daily Telegraph: "Iran has publicly expressed its support for stability in Afghanistan and has a vested interest in supporting efforts against the Taliban. Any Iranian links to illegal armed groups either through supply of munitions, training or funding would be unacceptable."

However, one high-ranking Afghan government official said: "We are absolutely convinced that the Iranian intelligence service is providing support to the Taliban."

Iran’s ambassador to Kabul, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, said: "Our belief is that a return of extremism to Afghanistan not only has a negative effect for Afghanistan but also for other countries in the region and beyond."