WASHINGTON - Taliban operatives are being trained in Iran as well as Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials in Washington.
"We've known for some time that Iran has been a source for both materiel and trained fighters for Taliban elements in Afghanistan," Army Lt. Col. Edward Sholtis told CNN on Monday.
"For some years, Iran has supplied arms and munitions to the Afghan Taliban," a U.S. intelligence official said.
"It [the Islamic Republic] has also helped conduct at least small-scale weapons training for the Taliban. There's reason to believe that some of this training has occurred in Iran," he said, according to the CNN report.
An Iranian official at the U.N. called the report "absolutely baseless" and said the Islamic Republic of Iran "strongly rejected" these "wrong allegations."
According to U.S. Gen. David Patraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Iran's role with the Taliban is limited at this point.
"There is some [training], but it, to this point I think, has been considered pretty low level," Gates said.
Bruce Reidel, a senior fellow at the Saban Institute for Middle East Policy, said the Iranians are particularly adept in manufacturing roadside bombs.
"They've been doing this in Lebanon, Iraq and other places for decades," Reidel said. "They're among the best in the world in this kind of knowledge. And they're trying to transmit some of that knowledge over to the Afghan Taliban."
According to Reidel, Iran is interested in diverting U.S. pressure on Tehran.
"As the U.S. squeezes Iran, Iran is looking for places to squeeze America back. And where better than Obama's war next door in Afghanistan," Reidel said.
The Taliban will take help wherever they can get it, he said, adding that if Iran decides to supply the Taliban with surface-to-air missiles, it could challenge U.S. and NATO command of Afghan airspace.