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October 28, 2010

Petraeus: Iran's Kabul Payments 'Disingenuous'

The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan says Iran's cash payments to the Afghan government are "disingenuous" or misleading, because Tehran also is actively supporting the Taliban.

U.S. General David Petraeus told VOA's Persian News Network Friday that Iran gives the Afghan government financial support, but also undermines the Kabul government by aiding the insurgents responsible for the country's security problems.

Petraeus said Iran directly supports Taliban militants with training and equipment, and also offers some direction to the insurgents fighting to overthrow Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's government.

The American general called Iran's position on Afghanistan "conflicted."   Despite the assistance Tehran sends to the Taliban, Petraeus said, "in some respects" Iran also wants Afghanistan to gain the ability to govern itself and take charge of its own security.  

General Petraeus said neither Iran nor the United States wants Afghanistan to revert to conditions prior to 2001, when the country was under Taliban control and "a sanctuary for transnational extremists" such as al-Qaida.

On Tuesday Iran confirmed it has sent money to the Afghan government for years, saying the funds are intended to aid Afghanistan's reconstruction.

President Karzai said Monday that his office received "bags of money" from Iran, and he described those payments as no different from money his government receives from the United States and other countries.

Petraeus said Mr. Karzai's comments were "forthright" in his statement about the money from Iran, and he added the Iranian payments were very small compared to the financial aid Afghanistan received from the U.S. and other countries.

However, the commander said Iran's assistance to the Taliban overrides the common interests that Iran and the U.S share on Afghanistan.  Those common interests include a joint commitment to wipe out Afghanistan's illegal narcotics industry, since Iran has growing drug problem.  Iran, as a Shi'ite Muslim-led nation, also wants to ensure that the "Sunni, ultra-conservative extremists" who control the Taliban do not regain control in any part of Afghanistan.