Commander finds no evidence of Iranian training or weapons in Afghanistan

Reports from the field contradict Bush administration claims of Taliban support across the border.

A top U.S. commander in embattled southern Afghanistan said he has not seen any evidence that Iran is providing training or weapons to Taliban fighters, contradicting claims by the Bush administration of Iranian interference in Afghanistan.

"I haven't seen any Iranian weapons or anything of that nature making its way here," said Army Col. Thomas McGrath, who directs the American-led training and equipping of the Afghan army and police in southern Afghanistan, speaking to reporters by phone on Tuesday. "I know we have issues with [the Iranians] in Iraq, but I haven't really seen any of that here."

In a Wall Street Journal story this week, an unidentified senior military official said Iran was training members of the Taliban and providing them with armor-piercing roadside bombs. At a news conference in Paris on Tuesday, Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs, said, "Iran is interfering in a variety of ways [in Afghanistan]. There have been several shipments of weapons."

According to intelligence reports from the battlefield, McGrath said, there were no indications of Iranian support to the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. "I haven't seen any incidents of [Iranian made roadside bombs] in the region. I have no reason to believe they're here," he said.

There was no discernible Taliban "spring offensive" this year, McGrath said, adding that the insurgents appeared to be "stuck in a rut," with low morale and a noticeable decline in their fighting abilities. "If the [Iranians] are training them, they're not doing very well," he said.

Some 34,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, with the recent addition of 3,500 Marines in the Kandahar region, the highest level since the war began in 2001. McGrath said the Marines have moved into Taliban-infested areas to bolster and train the Afghan police forces.