How Iran tried to bribe Taliban operatives with bounties on US soldiers, according to a former Taliban commander

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How Iran tried to bribe Taliban operatives with bounties on US soldiers, according to a former Taliban commander
Afghan Taliban fighters and villagers seen in Laghman Province, Alingar district on March 2, 2020.Wali Sabawoon/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • A former Taliban commander has spoke to Insider about being offered money by Iran to attack US troops.
  • Speaking to Insider, the man, who led a unit until 2014, said he met with a member of Iran's elite Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
  • "He offered me money and training to do attacks against the Americans. They said they would give me some money and weapons to recruit some more men," the man told Insider.
  • "Then I was told they would offer us money for operations and bonuses for each American we killed."
  • Taliban sources told Insider in July that Russia also paid them bounties for US troops, after an exposé from The New York Times.

A former Taliban commander has described to Insider the details of an Iranian program offering bounties for the killing of US troops, which he said he was offered but ultimately rejected.

The man, who led a unit in Zabul province until 2014, confirmed that Iran explicitly offered him payment for killing Americans in two separate meetings.

According to Insider's David Choi, such arrangements were common knowledge, and Iranian proxy forces boasted of them in a leaflet campaign across the country.

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The Taliban source is now living in Greece as a refugee. He asked for anonymity, fearing that authorities could reject his asylum claims over his past activity.

He described being in meetings in his province with representatives of Iran's Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

He said a meeting with the Quds official was brokered by the Haqqani network, a guerilla group associated with both the Taliban and al Qaeda who had previously tried to offer him a similar deal.

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How Iran tried to bribe Taliban operatives with bounties on US soldiers, according to a former Taliban commander
Taliban members after being released by authorities in Parwan, Afghanistan, on May 26, 2020.Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The source was especially valued as a commander, he said, because he had once worked with US and UK forces in Helmand Province, where he received elite military training.

He left after a heated disagreement about US tactics and the collateral damages to Afghan civilians, and defected to the Taliban. Not long after he set up his own unit, he said offers came from external powers, including Iran.

The former commander said of the Iranian: "He offered me money and training to do attacks against the Americans. They said they would give me some money and weapons to recruit some more men and would give us training on explosives and how to make the best IEDs [improvised explosive devices] to burn American tanks and humvees.

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"Then I was told they would offer us money for operations and bonuses for each American we killed."

How Iran tried to bribe Taliban operatives with bounties on US soldiers, according to a former Taliban commander
President Donald Trump delivers remarks to US troops in an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 28, 2019.Tom Brenner/Reuters

The commander considered the offer but says he eventually rejected it because he did not trust the parties involved.

"Iran and Haqqani are supposed to be enemies, the Taliban and Iran have fought many times and are enemies," he said.

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"It's normal in Afghanistan for such people to work together but I know Iran very well because I lived there, same with Pakistan and I knew that both consider Afghans to be dogs they can use for their plans and let die. Haqqani and al Qaeda tell everyone that the Iranians are [infidels] but they also arrange meetings for them with the Taliban. You cannot trust any of these people."

The offer was later repeated, the source said, at which point he decided to leave the Taliban, fearing that he could be killed and replaced with a more cooperative commander.

A friend of the Taliban source — who formerly worked in the Afghan government and is also now in Greece seeking asylum — confirmed that he had heard details of the story before. The men have known each other almost 25 years.

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