Politics

Gates: Iran Support for Taliban 'Pretty Limited'

Mar. 9: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets with RC South Commander Major General Nick Carter at Kandahar Air Base.

Mar. 9: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets with RC South Commander Major General Nick Carter at Kandahar Air Base.  (AP)

A U.S. MILITARY BASE IN SOUTHWEST ASIA -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that Iranian support for the Taliban in Afghanistan isn't much of a problem for the United States -- yet.

As far as the U.S. can tell, Gates said, Iran's support for the insurgency is "pretty limited."

Gates noted that he had a public exchange of barbs with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week over which country is doing harm in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon chief had accused Tehran of "playing a double game" in Afghanistan by trying to woo the Afghan government while undermining U.S. and NATO efforts by helping the Taliban.

"We think Afghanistan should have good relations with all of its neighbors, but we also want all of Afghanistan's neighbors to play an upfront game in dealing with the government of Afghanistan," Gates said Wednesday.

In a press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad responded that it was the United States that was playing a "double game."

"They themselves created terrorists and now they're saying that they are fighting terrorists," Ahmadinejad said.

Gates was in Afghanistan for three days this week. He spoke Thursday at a military base that is home to an Air Force refueling and surveillance operation serving the war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon asked press traveling with Gates not to name the base.