March 23rd, 2010
11:14 AM ET

U.S. officials: Taliban fighters training in Iran

Iran is helping train Taliban fighters within its borders, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials.

The United States has already said that the Taliban may be receiving limited training from the Iranians in Afghanistan, but the officials told CNN that training in the use of small arms was occurring within Iran.

"We've known for some time that Iran has been a source for both materiel and trained fighters for Taliban elements in Afghanistan," Army Lt. Col. Edward Sholtis said Monday. But, he said, it is unknown whether that training is occurring with the support of Tehran, or it is "simply something that is happening beyond the government's control."

"For some years, Iran has supplied arms and munitions to the Afghan Taliban," said a U.S. intelligence official. "It has also helped conduct at least small-scale weapons training for the Taliban. There's reason to believe that some of this training has occurred in Iran."

The officials who spoke with CNN did not say how many Taliban fighters have been trained in Iran, or whether the training was sanctioned at the highest levels of the Iranian government.

Iran, which has always denied supporting the Taliban, said the training allegations were false.

An Iranian official at the United Nations said these are "...absolutely baseless and wrong allegations, and strongly rejected by the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Related: Afghan-Iranian mountain trails reveal hidden weapons smuggling route

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in the region, has said Iran was aiding the Taliban within Afghanistan but that its role was limited in scope.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who visited Afghanistan recently, agreed with Petraeus. "There is some [training], but it, to this point, I think, has been considered to be pretty low-level," he said.

A former CIA officer who did a strategic review of Afghanistan for the Obama administration last year said the Iranians have mastered improvised explosive devices - makeshift bombs hidden along roads and in ditches.

"They've been doing this in Lebanon, Iraq, and other places for decades," said Bruce Reidel, now a senior fellow at the Saban Institute for Middle East Policy. "They're among the best in the world in this kind of knowledge. And they're trying to transmit some of that knowledge over to the Afghan Taliban."

The Sunday Times newspaper in London quoted two unidentified Taliban commanders as saying they had attended three-month courses in Iran. CNN could not confirm those details.

Predominantly Shiite Iran has been a longtime enemy of the Taliban, which is made up primarily of Sunni Muslims.

But Reidel said that Iran views the Taliban as a way to counter U.S. pressure on Tehran.

"As the U.S. squeezes Iran, Iran is looking for places to squeeze America back," he said. "And where better than Obama's war next door in Afghanistan?"

Despite the lack of love for Iran's ayatollahs, the Taliban, said Reidel, are seeking help wherever they can get it, especially with Pakistan's recent arrests of top Taliban militants and U.S. drone attacks on Taliban havens.

But Iranian assistance to the Taliban has the potential to provoke military confrontation, Reidel said. If Iran starts supplying sophisticated surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban, then U.S. and NATO command of Afghan airspace could change just as the balance changed when the United States provided Mujahedeen fighters with Stingers in their fight against the Soviets in the late 1980s.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Stocks Training Teacher

    How is this a surprise to anyone?? If you have followed the war, you would know Iran has been supplying weapons and training fighters.


    August 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jonney Red

    There is so many conspiracy theorist out there turning their backs on the US Government, not supporting the troops or the military( Ya, it is two seperate items), The pride for the American way of life.
    It is funny that we the citizens of this great nation forget easy and like hold the knife that stabs each of us in the back. Now, I have my opinions about where this country is heading and the movement of thought that seems to ebb and flow according to the hot hype of a specific day.
    It all comes down to doing whats right... I also think about the Law of humanity. I believe in an eye for an eye. Treat all others they way you want to be treated. It has got to the point of many decivers living the life in our society. Be it, up on Capitol Hill, in the White House, or protecting our streets. I think we lost track on what needs to be done for the sake of our society. Protect our boarders. Secure our way of life. Stop worrying about making everyone happy because it'll never be done. That is way we have checks and balances.
    At the end of the day are you putting in as much as you possibly can? Do you wake up feeling safe? Are you proud of where you life? If you haven't put forth the effort then shut your mouth or make a difference. Stop your complaining.

    April 18, 2010 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. CynicalPundit

    Iran will be reduced to rubble and NO ONE but the Iranian people will weep.

    Posted by: Thomas

    And once they finish weeping out of grief for their beloved country, they will soon turn to anger, immediately calling for retribution against U.S. and make no mistake about it, the Iranians are known for their "unfettered vengeance" and you will feel their wrath on your soil. Not something you would want on your conscience.

    April 5, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Robert

    Why is the U.S. involved in everyone's business when their own country is falling apart financially? I would think they would get their own house in order rather meddling in other countries affairs. In time if they continue to allow a few knuckle heads that have influence make decisions for their country it will stumble, from what I can see the people that are making decisions just do not have the intellect to be in the position they are in. As far as Iran goes the Bush administration tried so hard to come up with anything to start a war with Iran, at one point on the news they showed these little Iranian speed boats threatening a battleship it was ridiculous, I feel it doesn't matter who they pick to run the U.S. this will continue until a war is started, unfortunately I do not believe the U.S. has the resources or the backing from other countries to do this. I would like to know what the real reason is because they are no threat to the U.S ,or Israel ,I saw a report that Israel alone have 200 nuclear bombs, and from what I can see with Iran they have 67 million people ,and that a nuclear power station would be a positive for the countries power supply . If it is like Iraq it will be to take over the Oil wells and change the sale of oil to petro dollars now that all the American oil companies are there. Who would have thought it would be 2010 and we would still need that nasty oil stuff. We still haven't evolved as a people of peace yet, maybe in another 200 years, this whole power and money thing is getting old. Unfortunately we are all only human and we are all physically terminal, it doesn't matter who you are and what you have... we are all going in the same direction let’s try to be moral and use our knowledge to improve the world not destroy it.

    April 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Iyov

    My question is respectfully directed to our President Obama. What are you going to do about it now that sanctions are not working?

    March 29, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scott - Indiana

    With Iran arming, funding and training Hamas to cause trouble in Isreal, arming, funding and training Hezballah to cause trouble in Lebenon and the Al-qeida in Yeman, people shouldn't be suprised that Iran would be arming, training and funding Al-qeida in Afganistan.

    Trully, Iran's use of the muslim religion to justify killing people even their own citizens just to stay in power makes me sad for all muslims.

    I personally could not be a part of a religion that promotes the killing of people.

    Using religion to promote killing is Evil and should be shunned by every muslim.

    March 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mossad Agent

    We plant these kind of stories in your media because we want America to fight our wars for us. The truth has nothing do do with it. What is important is the interest of Israel in the region. As long as you have news outlets and politicians for sale in the USA we will be buying them.

    March 29, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Andrew A

    Realax, it is the first stage of military operation against Iran.
    Propaganda is very severe.
    Iran will be attacked as they are saying a very true and unpleasant words against totalitarian U.S. government.

    March 27, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bravo

    I am not a fan of war but mates IRAN needs to be sorted out & i'll love been at the party...Those dudes are real cowards & loves the antics of a proxy war...

    Corp. Bernard.
    British Army

    March 27, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joseph

    us must focus quiitew aa bit to iran its near the eu and middle east if this country dont really change thier attitudwe towards peacful eu and middle east, i think its about time to asses what thier people will vote for extinction or harmony towards thed whole world, and then let the norht korean and the chiinese think it over if they are willing to loose thier historical heritage in just one week, they do harm in all this world but i think the loser is china and the north they i think existed far beyond as the egyptian.

    March 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Abdul Aziz Mohmand

    Iran is providing explosive material, money and weapons to terrorists around the world. Iran is a scoundrel country in this planet therefore Russian Authority should not help a country where undemocratic system is running and a country who is involved in unauthorized nuclear arsenal. Although Iran is selling its oil to some countries and receiving money. Iran is also supplying explosive material to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon for terrorists’ activities.

    March 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    Most of these comments are some of the most ignorant I have ever read. Yes, we trained and militarized the Taliban to defeat the greater of two evils, Soviet Russia. But this is now, the Taliban is a threat to the safety of U.S. citizens so we will pursue them until there is no longer a threat. Also, how can half of you be sure Iran is not aiding the Taliban when you are not on the frontline of the intelligence community. Iran is doing the same thing that we did to the Russians, supplying the lesser of two evils to defeat the greater one, the United States. Despite their religious differences they are willing to work together, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Finally, how can you declare this is right wing media propaganda, then declare the next article left wing propaganda like all the conspiracy theroists do. The people who control the deployment of troops and the declaration of war are all Democrats! The right wing can't send troops to war at this point! Someone please bring this madness to an end!

    March 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Michael

    seems inevitable we be eventually drawn into conflict with Iran

    March 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Faisal Siddique

    USA is the biggest terrorist country on this earth, that's the only country who ever used nuclear weapons against civilian intentionally, killing millions of people in Japan. It can't be anything but joke if USA or it's media is telling rest of the world who is terrorist and who is not. They are giving lectures on human rights to the rest of the world by standing on tower of human bones. These illegitimate children of slave masters have not changed their mentality even after centuries and their behavior has constantly proved even in recent wars what they are exactly.

    I would say CNN is good comedy channel and let's enjoy it what it is instead of expecting something serious and raising our expectations.

    March 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. david woods

    dude its so obviouse that osama bin hidin is in IRAN what other countrys would he go to with all the power an wealth he has of course hes gona go to iran and you know all the irananians are corrupt because osama bin hidin is paying even THE president of Iran off, its so obviouse cause his kids are being protected in the saudi embassy in the irananian capital... all roads lead to rome,.. this war in afghan will sooner or later translate to the hole middle east... but with a president with no military backround its just gona take longer and longer......... and all obama is doing is giving Osama more time.i do hope theres many more americans like me, cause im spirited 110%.

    March 26, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  16. FairComment

    There is no proof or interest for an Iranian involvment in training Taliban. If such activities do take place on Iranian soil in fact, it is most lickely out of the control of the government. It is important to understand that the US is not popular in that part of the world due to its agressive atitude. It is seen like the big bully. So many locals do have sympathy and respect for those combatants who fight US military. They see them as couragous fighters defending their land. So they may possibly get support from local communities. So perhaps the US need to have a less aggresive atitude in order to win the hearts and minds of the locals, and stop blaming everything on Iran.

    March 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Joe Sixpack

    What's the big deal???? The US trained and armed good old Saddam Iraq to fight Iran. What a bunch of hypocrites...

    March 26, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  18. Joe Sixpack

    What's the big deal????? The US supported their than best body Saddam when Iraq was at war with Iran.... What goes around comes around..

    March 26, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  19. Jayasundara

    USA as a nation carriers the weight of being the stand bearer of free world. even though may be bit diminished by Bush era. Obama era represent new hope.

    what ever the country they can have their own interests. if one country is not obliging to you you cannot attack that country as a rouge nation. our world history is more than 10,000 years old. USA played its part for last 50 years. once there was Persian and Assyrian civilizations.

    USA must learn to value diversity in opinion and other countries right have their own interests and still take them as partners.

    March 26, 2010 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  20. Concerned citizen of the world

    The Taliban and Iran are enemies and because the Taliban hates Shias, Iran would not officially support them. However i am positive that some Iranians with the right political connections are making a killing supplying weapons and logistics to the Taliban. The Iranian weapons dealers and middlemen are making a lot of money and most Iranian government officials probably view this situation as 2 enemies killing each other no skin off my nose. Of course history will bear that this is the same short sighted policy that eventually will come back to haunt the Iranians.

    March 26, 2010 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  21. Masoud

    Forget about the Shia – Sunni debate. Neither the mullahs of Iran nor the Taliban (Afghan mullahs) are Muslim. They are terrorists; murderers who use religion as a pretext for their crimes against humanity. In my view Taliban are just bunch of mercenaries who were getting money and equipment from the US to fight Russians and are now getting the same from Iran to fight Americans. The mullahs on Iran who are sitting on the wealth of a nation as wealthy as Iran are godfathers of International terrorism and every sensible person should support democratic change in Iran by the people of Iran as the only way out of the mess in the Middle East.

    March 26, 2010 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |
  22. Bubba

    If this is true, Iran would be luring the US to attack it's land, purposefully, to give their nuclear ambitions more legitimacy. Genious!

    March 25, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  23. sonsoflight

    None of us knows what's really going on. All we can do is speculate on what we're being told, based on someone else's opinion of what may or may not be the truth or untruth. There are good and evil populations and leaders in every country. Chances are, this entire story was designed to promote some latent agenda by someone who stands to gain money or power. Today Iran is our enemy and we're currently supposedly striking armament deals with our former enemy, Russia. Tomorrow, it could be the opposite. The biggest example was when we funded/trained/supplied the "freedom fighters" in the mountains of Afghanistan in their "struggle" against Russia. Those same warriors maintained and circulated a database of names to form a rag tag army. Over time, the database was simply referred to as "the base" for short. The Arabic translation for this is Al-Quaeda. Yes, the same one.

    March 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  24. janet amighi

    The US did not support the Taliban militarily. They supported the Mujahedin against the Soviets. After the war, the Soviets and US left, and warlords took over, chaos and mayhem reigned. The Taliban formed to rescue Afghan society and then imposed an extremist Islamic law. Now we support a government that is made up of former warlords and is amongst most corrupt on earth. When Karzai opponent withdrew because of fraud, the US said nothing. And when Hamas won a free election in Palestine, US joined in trying to starve them out.

    No doubt that US follows double standards policies. Our dictators are good guys, non-aligned or opposing dictators have rogue regimes. Mujahedin were freedom fighters, Palestinians are terrorists.
    US extends hand of peace to Iran while supporting Iranian regime's enemies, and internal terrorists. Not such a open hand. Iran signs non-profliferation Treaty and then is told they can't build nuclear energy plants permitted under Treaty.

    US policy has improved but still mired in double standards and inequities. That doesn't excuse the brutal regimes around the world. But it doesn't make sense to pick on some and send jet fighters and aid to others. But politics is Machiavelian isn't it? Too bad that approach doesn't work well in teh long run.

    March 25, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  25. cyclopes


    March 25, 2010 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  26. nor

    wow,another IRAK like to start a war...insane

    March 25, 2010 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  27. Guest

    By the way, what has the United Nations been able to do about Iran processing uranium? Nothing!!!!! The United Nations is nothing but a dinner club! We should quit the UN and do our own thing.

    March 25, 2010 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  28. Guest

    Why does CNN allow comment on things we cannot control, but offer us no opportunity to comment on the Healthcare bill that Obama wants to force on us, but one that he is unwilling to use for his own family.

    March 25, 2010 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  29. lance


    March 24, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Ben

    The Taliban leadership should be tried by the Hague for crimes against humanity. In fact the Hague should label ALL muslims that commit depraved acts of killing innocent Iraqis and Afghanis as war criminals. The Taliban is ignorant beyond the scope of civilization, they follow the teachings of a caravan bandit and are below the lowest pig on earth but rank right up there with eboli for their senseless killings of innocent muslims and christians. As to Iran, Iran needs their entire infrastructure removed as a thank you for contributing to the world's misery. Thry are no less than a crime syndicate hiding as a sovereign nation. Iran will be reduced to rubble and NO ONE but the Iranian people will weep.

    Posted by: Thomas

    This is how a lot of hate and fear mongering begins. Just because some people in a particular country killed some people in another country does not mean that the country in question should be leveled to the ground. You do not get rid of a weed by chopping off the tops. You get rid of a weed by pulling it up from its roots. A group of peoples that have been brainwashed to think a certain way does not mean they are bad people, it means they have been led down a destructive path. Change the mindset, change the people. (In this sense the term "people" means those who have not already pledged allegiance to the Taliban)

    March 24, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Thomas

    The Taliban leadership should be tried by the Hague for crimes against humanity. In fact the Hague should label ALL muslims that commit depraved acts of killing innocent Iraqis and Afghanis as war criminals. The Taliban is ignorant beyond the scope of civilization, they follow the teachings of a caravan bandit and are below the lowest pig on earth but rank right up there with eboli for their senseless killings of innocent muslims and christians. As to Iran, Iran needs their entire infrastructure removed as a thank you for contributing to the world's misery. Thry are no less than a crime syndicate hiding as a sovereign nation. Iran will be reduced to rubble and NO ONE but the Iranian people will weep.


    March 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Reza

    This is complete lie and fabrication. Taleban consider Iran as non-believer. This former CIA agent is ignorant and they have shown how they assess in the past and how they make mistake

    March 24, 2010 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  33. Daniel

    Now these right-wing thugs in Washinton are starting this propaganda in an effort to whip up more right-wing mob mentality for war with the help of the right-wing news media.Next I expect to see all these blood thirsty right-wing nutjobs to blog in their sickening bravado.

    March 24, 2010 at 3:50 am | Report abuse |
  34. James -- Atlanta

    I can't imagine anyone being surprized.

    March 23, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  35. A. Smith, Oregon

    No doubt this bit of propaganda is designed to whip up American Nationalist sentiment against Iran. For a full DECADE the CIA trained the Taliban freedom fighters to kill the Soviet troops, equipped them with Stinger heat seeking weapons which ALSO ended up in Africa where they were used to MURDER hundreds of civilians when they brought down several civilian airliners. During that DECADE the CIA instructed the Taliban in manufacturing IED's which are now the bane of all American soldiers in the Middle East. American taxpayer dollars by the hundreds of Millions were given by the CIA to Taliban commanders during that DECADE.

    Now America is pointing to a country which is perceived by America as unfriendly as 'training the Taliban'. Obviously the Taliban weapons are coming from Pakistan as they did when the CIA was supplying the weapons to the Taliban.

    Now America is warning Iran not to equip the Taliban with Stinger or Russian Red-Eye small hand-held surface to air missiles, because America previously gave them to the Taliban which destroyed many of the Russian cargo planes, helicopters and a great many Russian soldiers?

    March 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Dan Lafayette,IN

    We aught to know by now that Iran supports every terrorist group! They support terror in Lebanon,the west bank and no doubt terrorists in Yemen and Somalia! Iran is the largest supporter of terror than any other nation and they call their clerics godly people when they kill their opponents and rule with an iron fist! There's no doubt that GOD"S judgment is upon them!

    March 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  37. William Sawyer

    Why does CNN constantly make a news broadcast and then ask for peoples comments by blog , email, twitter etc.?
    Could it be that there isn't enough news to justify a 24/7 media coverage?? Your broadcasts repeat every 11 minutes. Just report the news and move on!! Maybe you'll find you dont need so many people on your payroll.

    March 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |