In the past few weeks, there has been public debate about intelligence reports that Russia has been paying bounties to Afghani jihadists who kill U.S. soldiers, and about the White House’s response to the information. What is not debatable, however, is that Tehran has been providing the Taliban with just such financial incentives—despite the oft-heard claim that the Shiite Islamic Republic is ideologically opposed to any cooperation with Sunni terrorist groups. Lawrence Franklin writes:
Iran’s bounty program for killing U.S. troops began as early as 2010. In one instance, a report indicated that a Taliban messenger was dispatched from Kabul to Iran to pick up $18,000 to be distributed to Taliban cells in Wardak province, Afghanistan. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Terrorist Finance Targeting Center confirmed the relationship between the Taliban and its Iranian sponsors by sanctioning both parties.
During the time when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, Shiite Iran opposed Kabul’s radical Sunni regime. But after al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan-based 9/11 attack on the United States, Iranian intelligence agencies began to open links both to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, for instance, issued Iranian passports to al-Qaeda and presumably the Taliban. After the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban government, Iran quickly moved to assist the Taliban with weapons, explosives, training, and sanctuary on Iranian territory.
Iran’s [expeditionary] Quds Force . . . maintains a close training relationship with various Taliban elements. . . . Iranian weapons have [also] surfaced in Afghanistan’s Kandahar and Farah provinces, both of which abut Iran’s more than 550-mile border with Afghanistan.