The Air Force Times’ Sean Naylor scored an interview with Major General Mike Flynn, director of intelligence for General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. There isn’t a lot new here to longtime readers of The Long War Journal and Threat Matrix. Flynn gives an overview of the Taliban groups, notes that al Qaeda operatives serve as combat enablers for the Taliban, estimates Taliban forces in Afghanistan at between 19,000 to 27,000 fighters, and said Pakistan remains a major haven for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Of particular interest are Flynn’s comments on Iran and the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Qods Force in Afghanistan. There is one small quibble, which I will note at the end.
“They are conducting intelligence operations,” he said, adding that the Qods Force was “playing games on both sides [of the Afghan-Pakistan border] that are very dangerous.”
The Qods Force was “probably” doing things in Afghanistan that were getting coalition troops killed, including providing weapons to insurgents and training the Taliban, he said.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have not captured any Qods Force operatives, but “the Afghans have captured Iranians,” Flynn said, referring to four Iranians caught smuggling small arms in Nimruz in July. Asked if his people were “beating down the door” to interrogate the Iranians, Flynn answered “Yes,” before adding, “We have had great cooperation with the Afghans.”
When questioned as to whether it was his working assumption that the four were Qods Force members, Flynn replied: “They were bringing in weapons. Now, do they have the badge that says ‘QF’ on the logo? No.”
Flynn’s assessment is that the Iranians were probably planning to sell the weapons in Helmand and return to Iran, “maybe with some narcotics to take back out.”
He noted that, on this occasion at least, the Iranians were not smuggling explosively formed projectiles, which are used to make a particularly lethal form of roadside bomb, and which the Iranians supplied to Iraqi insurgents in large numbers. “There’s been only a couple of EFP discoveries here,” he said. “They have not taken that strategic step, and I would recommend that they don’t. That would be a huge strategic line to cross, especially given what they’ve done in Iraq.”
Nonetheless, the Qods Force was still a malevolent force in Afghanistan, Flynn stressed. “The IRGC Qods Force is an organization that needs to be checked at the door,” he said. “And if the country of Iran wants to act responsibly on the world stage they need to take that organization, dismantle it and get it to quit acting like a nation-state-backed terrorist organization.”
Qods Force is acting like a terrorist organization because, according to the US government, it is one. The US Treasury Department designated Qods Force as a terrorist entity back on Oct. 25, 2007. Qods Force receives its orders directly from Iran’s Supreme Leader; it is acting at the behest of the Iranian state.
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