KABUL -- At least five Iranian companies in Afghanistan's capital are using their offices covertly to finance Taliban militants in provinces near Kabul, according to an investigation by London's Sunday Times.
Afghan intelligence and Taliban sources have told the newspaper that the firms, set up in the past six months, provide cash for a network of district Taliban treasurers to pay battlefield expenses and bonuses for killing the enemy and destroying their vehicles.
The Iranian companies win contracts to supply materials and logistics to Afghans involved in reconstruction. The money often comes in the form of aid from foreign donors.
From these countries, the money returns to Afghanistan through the informal Islamic banking system known as hawala to be dispersed to the Taliban.
"This means the companies involved in funding the insurgency can cover their tracks easily. It makes it harder for us to trace the cashflow," a senior Afghan intelligence official said.
Iranian companies have been established with the intention of winning contracts funded by foreign aid so that donors’ cash could be channeled into the insurgency, the official said. Western officials believe the network may have been set up by the Al-Quds force, an elite branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The Iranian embassy in Kabul refused to respond to the allegations. But according to the Taliban treasurer, who has been interviewed by The Sunday Times, Iran is paying bonuses of $1,000 for killing an American soldier and $6,000 for destroying a U.S. military vehicle.