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Iran funding Afghan religious-political leaders, Taliban militants: WikiLeaks

By anita nair

Kabul, Dec 3 (ANI): Secret cables released by the whistleblower website 'WikiLeaks' have revealed that Iran is financing a number of Afghan religious and political leaders, grooming Afghan religious scholars, training Taliban militants and even influencing MPs in the country.

The Guardian quoted the cables as saying that a top Afghan President aide, who had reportedly received a huge amount of cash from the Iranian government, told a senior US diplomat that almost all Afghan officials were on Tehran's payroll, including some people nominated for cabinet positions.

Omar Daudzai had told the then deputy US ambassador, Francis Ricciardone, in February that Iran had also provided salary support for some Afghan government deputy ministers and other officials, including 'one or two even in the presidential palace.

"Daudzai claimed that some of these officials had been relieved of their duties because 'you can't be an honest Afghan if you receive a package from Iran,'" the paper quoted the cables, as saying.

Daudzai had attracted media attention in October when Afghan President Hamid Karzai had admitted that his chief of staff had received "bags of cash," containing hundreds of thousands of euros, from an Iranian official during an official trip with the President to Tehran. The money was to support Karzai's office, something the diplomatic cables reveal the Americans were told about in 2009, the paper said

Daudzai had also told Ricciardone that his government preferred the US' sustained cash support to the 'occasional and unpredictable' payments from Iran, adding that Afghans were trained to fight with the Taliban inside Iran and thousands of Afghan religious scholars were on the Iranian payroll, with the entire project co-ordinated by an official in Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office, it added.

In an August 2007 meeting, Afghan foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, explained to Richard Boucher, the then assistant secretary for south and central Asian affairs, that his government had to concentrate on the main threat, Pakistan's support for insurgents, and could not afford to antagonise Iran.

"We agree with the US and UK that Iran is engaged in a lot of interference, but our interest in dealing with Iran is to be careful not to open a second front along the Iranian border with Afghanistan," he had said. (ANI)

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