Iran is Moving Into Afghanistan
February 11, 2004
National Review Online
With Karzai's permission, Iran is establishing terrorist bases in Afghanistan.
Last Saturday, the Iranian government made an extraordinary announcement. The mullahs' Islamic Republic News Agency said that they had completed construction of ten "border outposts" inside the Harat province of Afghanistan. According to the report, these are in addition to others all along the border, inside Nimrouz, Sistan, Baluchestan, and Farah provinces. That the mullahs are doing this at all with the apparent consent of the Karzai government and without any objection from us is simply astounding. In effect, Karzai has invited them in to foment terrorism and insurgency against our forces and against his struggling government.
Iran is the central terrorist nation. Hezbollah the terrorists who operate as functionaries of Syria are backed and paid for by Tehran, as are several other terrorist organizations. Iran has admitted that several of the al Qaeda leadership are in Iran, supposedly under arrest, but more likely being given sanctuary and assistance. Iran, already well armed with missiles and WMD, has built several nuclear "research" sites, many of which are well buried to protect them from air strikes. They don't want to be the recipients of a message from Israel like the one that destroyed Iraq's Osirak facility in 1981.
As Undersecretary of State John Bolton explained last November, Iran's nuclear program is despite what the Clouseaus of the International Atomic Energy Agency say working hard to develop nuclear weapons. Enriched plutonium, which even the IAEA managed to find at one Iranian nuclear site, has no peaceful purpose. More than two years ago one of Iran's leaders, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, said that if the Islamic world can get nuclear weapons it should use them on Israel, because they can destroy Israel while the Islamic world would survive a nuclear counterattack. These are the people Karzai is inviting into his country.
The Iranians are being quite clever, saying that their Afghan outposts will be manned by "special police" for a campaign against poppy cultivation. Iran's interest in poppy production is the same as its interests in nuclear weapons: They don't plan on using nukes on themselves, and they have an active antidrug campaign that works against the heroin traffickers who try to sell their wares in Iran. But others cross Iran from Afghanistan to reach heroin labs in eastern Turkey and in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Heroin sales are used to finance terror. Intercepted al Qaeda shipments of heroin prove that well enough. The Iranians' having antidrug cops inside Afghanistan may aid them in stopping some shipments to local drug sellers, but it will also allow them to provide safe conduct for those shipments that are meant for their terrorist allies and operatives.
By allowing the Iranians in, the Afghans are providing them with the best cover they can get: a legal right to operate inside Afghanistan. The Iranians will catch a few "suspect" druggies to show the world that they're good guys. To better achieve their "mission" against poppy growing, Iranian forces will range over large areas of Afghanistan. They will claim that any interference in any of their operations is unlawful and only helps the drug smugglers. If American troops interfere in their terrorist operations, the Iranians will fight. There will be small skirmishes between Iranian "police" and our special-ops troops. But the Iranians don't want an open war against the United States, at least not yet. So they will complain to the Karzai government, which, having trapped itself, will have to ask us to leave the Iranians alone. The whole mess may end up in another drawn-out U.N. debate, which will blame America for helping the drug smugglers. We can't let it get that far.
At this writing, there are still about ten thousand American troops and eight thousand NATO troops in Afghanistan, trying to stabilize the country so that democracy can take hold. Facing them or, more accurately, operating in the shadows all around them are the resurgent Taliban, al Qaeda, and agents of both the Pakistani and Iranian regimes. Pakistan's military intelligence agency the ISI was instrumental in the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and is allied with terrorist groups such as al Qaeda. Iran is more powerful, and thus more of an immediate threat to Afghanistan. The dozen Iranian outposts are also a direct challenge to the American and NATO forces. They will have to be watched every moment, and movement of people beyond their immediate vicinity will have to be stopped. This will tie up many of our special-ops troops, who are also out chasing the Taliban remnants and bin Laden himself.
The Iranians are setting themselves up to take Afghanistan by stealth, gradually and certainly. They will use their outposts to smuggle al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, as well as weapons and money, in and out of Afghanistan. They must be stopped with whatever force it takes. Otherwise, Iran's presence will grow, and so will its interference in the Afghan government's ability to establish security for its own people. The Iranians are preparing to fight a guerilla war against the Karzai government and the Western forces now in the country. They are readying the battlefield for a coming fight on their terms. We cannot allow this to proceed, and we need to force them out, but before we can we must persuade the Karzai government to reverse itself and deny the Iranians permission to enter Afghanistan.
If Afghanistan is free or at least free of the Taliban regime for the time being it is to President Bush's credit. But in Afghanistan, like Iraq, the battle is far from over. Karzai must act quickly and withdraw his permission for the Iranians to bring any police or troops into Afghanistan. The Iranians should be told to pack up and get out of town by sundown. If they don't, they should be evicted with whatever force may be required. Closing these outposts will not end infiltration from Iran, but it will make a stealthy invasion much harder.
NRO Contributor Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration. http://www.nationalreview.com/babbin/babbin200402110915.asp
"The Iranians are setting themselves up to take Afghanistan by stealth, gradually and certainly. They will use their outposts to smuggle al Qaeda and Taliban operatives, as well as weapons and money, in and out of Afghanistan. They must be stopped with whatever force it takes."
How can Karzai not know this?