While the Taliban terror network is being increasingly marginalized by rival terror group ISIS, Iran has stepped up to offer them support by sending shipments of weapons and money as well as training, according to stunning new reports.
Citing Afghan and Western officials, the Wall Street Journal has claimed that Iran is backing the militants to prevent ISIS from gaining a foothold in Afghanistan and to counter U.S. influence ahead of the planned withdrawal of American troops in the country by the end of 2016.
Taliban fighters have confirmed the militants receive weapons from smugglers paid by Iran's government, who traffic the illicit arms through the remote border region where Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan intersect. The weapons shipments consist of mortars, machine guns, rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Yet Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, has denied providing financial or military aid to the Taliban.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., condemned the report as further evidence of the administration's continued willful disregard for the facts showing Iranian aggression in the region.
The report also found that for the past two years Iran has been operating training camps for the Taliban inside its territory, with at least four of the camps currently operating.
A senior Afghan official said that previously Iran had been supporting the Taliban financially, but now they are training and equipping them too, possibly in a sign that Iran views ISIS as growing too powerful too quickly.