There was a curious story in the British media today reporting that Iran is supplying the Taliban in Afghanistan with surface-to-air missiles capable of destroying a helicopter. Journalist Michael Smith attributes his information to “American intelligence sources,” but the newspaper reporting the story is The Times, which is Rupert Murdoch owned and has often served as conduit for disinformation put out by the British and Israeli governments. On Saturday, the British defense ministry claimed to have no information confirming the report. The report suggests that the Taliban wants to use the SA-14 Gremlins missiles to launch a “spectacular” attack against coalition forces. ISAF helicopters operating in Afghanistan are equipped with defensive systems to deflect missiles but the SA-14 can apparently evade most counter-measures. According to the story, the presence of SA14s was first noted several weeks ago when parts from two of them were found during an American operation in western Afghanistan.
If effective mobile ground to air missiles were to be given to the Taliban it would mark a major shift in the Afghan fighting, similar to the provision of stingers to the Mujaheddin to bring down Russian helicopters in the 1980s. But I suspect the story is a fabrication, intended to put more pressure on Iran. The jump from finding some parts, if it is true, to an active Iranian program to provide a battlefield weapon that Tehran surely knows would trigger a devastating US response is also not credible.