06.12. 2015 – MarketWatch – By Margherita Stancati – KABUL – When Abdullah, a Taliban commander in central Afghanistan, needs more rifles and ammunition, he turns to the same people who pay his $580-a-month salary: his Iranian sponsors.
“Iran supplies us with whatever we need,” he said.
Afghan and Western officials say Tehran has quietly increased its supply of weapons, ammunition and funding to the Taliban, and is now recruiting and training their fighters, posing a new threat to Afghanistan’s fragile security.
Iran’s strategy in backing the Taliban is twofold, these officials say: countering U.S. influence in the region and providing a counterweight to Islamic State’s move into the Taliban’s territory in Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s aggressive military push and the new momentum toward peace negotiations between them and Kabul also raises the possibility that some of their members could eventually return to power.
“Iran is betting on the re-emergence of the Taliban,” said a Western diplomat. “They are uncertain about where Afghanistan is heading right now, so they are hedging their bets.”
Habib Khan Totakhil in Kabul and Felicia Schwartz in Washington contributed to this article.