Tension Brewing between Iran, Afghanistan amid Allegations of Tehran Aiding Taliban

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Nov 15, 2016
Tension Brewing between Iran, Afghanistan amid Allegations of Tehran Aiding Taliban

On November 15, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi refuted allegations by Afghan media and government officials that Tehran harbored Taliban leaders on its soil. “The presence of Taliban elements in Iran is baseless and unfounded,” he said, adding that Iran and Afghanistan had friendly relations and cooperated to ensure security and stability in the two countries.

Qasemi’s remarks appear to be directed at an article dated November 14 in Afghanistan’s largest daily Hasht-e Sobh titled “Iranian Taliban?” which accused Tehran of funding and assisting Taliban militants in western Afghanistan. The paper said some reports indicated that the Iranian government had recently put a military training facility inside Iran – previously used by Afghan mujahedeen fighters against the Taliban in the 1990s – at the disposal of the Taliban. It also mentioned that Taliban’s Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by a drone strike when he was returning from Iran to Pakistan.

Quoting Asif Nang, the provincial governor of Farah Province bordering Iran, Hasht-e Sobh wrote that Tehran provided money and weapons to the Taliban and that families of some Taliban leaders lived in Iran. According to the paper, Iran supported the Taliban to inflict damage to the US-led coalition forces in the past, and is now seeking Taliban’s aid to ensure the Islamic State does not find a foothold in western Afghan provinces threatening Iran’s security.  
The Afghan media and some parliamentarians in the past have also accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of coercing and incentivizing Afghan refugees to fight in Syria.

In the past 15 years, Iran has been playing both sides of the conflict in Afghanistan. While the civilian governments in Tehran have cultivated friendly ties with Kabul and contributed to the country’s reconstruction, the Revolutionary Guards has provided military and financial aid to the Taliban to expedite the withdrawal of US forces from the country.