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Cablegate: Afghans Sell Us Stingers to Khomeini

R 211629Z SEP 87
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6222
INFO AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
AMCONSUL PESHAWAR
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
AMEMBASSY KABUL
AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
USIA WASHDC 4890

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 20480

E.O.12356: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS IR
SUBJECT: AFGHANS SELL US STINGERS TO KHOMEINI

1. THE SUNDAY TIMES CARRIED A STORY ON SEPTEMBER 20
ALLEGING THAT THE U.S. HAS CUT OFF SUPPLIES OF STINGER
MISSILES TO THE AFGHAN MUJAHEDEEN BECAUSE SOME OF THE
REBEL COMMANDERS HAD SOLD STINGERS TO THE IRANIANS FOR
MONEY AND POLITICAL FAVOR.

2. BEGIN TEXT.

AFGHANS SELL US STINGERS TO KHOMEINI

THE UNITED STATES HAS CUT OFF SUPPLIES OF STINGER
ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES TO AN AFGHAN GUERRILLA GROUP
AFTER DISCOVERING THAT AT LEAST 16 OF THE WEAPONS WERE
SOLD BY THE RESISTANCE TO IRAN.

OTHER MUJAHEDDIN LEADERS EMBARRASSED BY THE REVELATION,
SAID THAT AS A RESULT RESISTANCE TO THE SOVIET-BACKED
AFGHAN REGIME HAD COLLAPSED IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN.

THE STINGER, WHICH IS SHOULDER-FIRED AND SIMPLE TO USE,
IS CONSIDERED BY MILITARY EXPERTS TO HAVE TIPPED THE
BALANCE OF THE EIGHT-YEAR WAR IN THE MUJAHADDIN'S
FAVOUR. THE UNITED STATES STARTED TO DELIVER LARGE
NUMBERS OF STINGERS TO AFGHAN REBEL GROUPS LAST YEAR,
AND THIS LED TO HEAVY LOSSES AMONG AFGHAN AND SOVIET
HELICOPTER GUNSHIPS.

-
TWO COMMANDERS FROM THE HEZBI ISLAMI PARTY OF YOUNIS
KHALIS, ONE OF THE STRONGEST OF THE SEVEN GUERRILLA
GROUPS, ARE IMPLICATED IN THE SALE. IT APPARENTLY
EARNED THEM 10M TOUMANS (ONE MILLION DOLLARS) AND
IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH THE REGIME OF AYATOLLAH
KHOMEINI. THE GROUP IS THE MOST FUNDAMENTALIST FACTION
AMONG THE AFGHAN RESISTANCE AND MAINTAINS
REPRESENTATION IN TEHRAN.

THE COMMANDERS WHO ARE SAID TO HAVE SOLD THE MISSILES,
MULLAH MAHIULLAH OF NIMROOZ AND MULLAH FAQIR-AHMAD OF
ANAR DARA, WHO CONTROLS THE KHASH RUD DISTRICT, WERE
SUPPLIED WITH 36 MISSILES. THEY DENY HAVING SOLD THE
WEAPONS AND INSTEAD CLAIM THAT THEY WERE CAPTURED BY
IRANIANS INSIDE AFGHANISTAN.

THE RESULTING SHORTAGE OF STINGERS IN THE REGION HAS
PROVED DISASTROUS FOR THE MUJAHEDDIN. "NINETY NINE
PERCENT OF NIMROOZ WAS IN COMMUNIST HANDS," SAID AN
OBSERVER IN THE PAKISTAN BORDER TOWN OF QUETTA. "ONLY
KHASH RUD WAS LEFT. ALL SUPPLIES TO HERAT HAD TO GO
THROUGH KHASH RUD, SO IT WAS VITAL TO KEEP THE WAY
OPEN. NOW KHASH RUD HAS BEEN BOMBED FLAT AND
RESISTANCE HAS VIRTUALLY CEASED THERE."

WESTERN AFGHANISTAN HAS BEEN CONSIDERED RISKY FOR THE
US BECAUSE THE AREA MAINTAINS CLOSE HISTORICAL AND
ETHNIC LINKS WITH NEIGHBOURING IRAN. MOST OF THE
AFGHAN SHI'ITE POPULATION LIVE THERE. "COMMANDERS COME
TO PAKISTAN AND SWEAR ON THE KORAN THAT THEY HAVE NO
LINKS WITH KHOMEINI. THEN THEY GO AND SELL WEAPONS.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?" ASKED ON OBSERVER. "MULLAHS HAVE NO
SENSE OF NATIONALITY," HE ADDED. "ANY MUSLIM COUNTRY
IS THEIR HOME AND THEY CONSIDER IRAN TO BE WAGING JIHAD
(HOLY WAR) AGAINST IRAQ."

MANY LOCAL COMMANDERS ARE BITTER ABOUT THE SALE OF
STINGERS. ONLY FOUR COMMANDERS IN THE KANDAHAR AREA,
AND THREE IN NIMROOZ, ARE KNOWN TO HAVE THE MISSILES.
EVEN POWERFUL LOCAL COMMANDERS, SUCH AS ABDUL RAZIQ OF
AFGHANISTAN, HAVE DIFFICULTIES IN OBTAINING THE
WEAPONS, WHICH ARE DISTRIBUTED THROUGH PAKISTAN.
UNCOMFIRMED REPORTS EARLIER THIS YEAR MAINTAINED THAT
THE IRANIANS HAD USED STINGERS TO SHOOT DOWN IRAQI
AIRCRAFT IN THE GULF WAR. THE US, WHICH DENIED THESE
REPORTS, IS CONCERNED THAT THE WEAPONS WILL FALL INTO
TERRORIST HANDS, OR WILL BE COPIED AND SUPPLIED IN
LARGE NUMBERS TO OTHER HOSTILE STATES SUCH AS LIBYA.

IN THE FLAT COUNTRY SURROUNDING KANDAHAR, WHICH HAS
BEEN A MUJAHEDDIN STRONGHOLD, THE NEED FOR
ANTI-AIRCRAFT WEAPONS IS ACUTE. THE GUERRILLAS TRAVEL
BY TRUCK ALONG DUST TRACKS AND ARE EASILY SPOTTED BY
OBSERVATION PLANES FITTED WITH NIGHT-SENSING
EQUIPMENT. COMMANDERS AND JOURNALISTS VENTURING TO THE
WEST HAVE OFTEN FOUND THEMSELVES THE TARGET OF AN
ORGANISED HUNT. I ENCOUNTERED FIVE AMBUSHES IN THE
REGION DURING A THREE-WEEK TRIP. END TEXT.

3. KABUL - MINIMIZE CONSIDER.

PRICE

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