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Afghanistan between Iran’s Intervention, Russia’s Return

By: Mahmoud Rahmani

Source: Asharq Al Awsat

Afghanistan has suffered from the consequence of a long war that took place more than 40 years ago, when the Soviet forces invaded the country to support the communist government in the late seventies. Since then, many states intervened in its interior issues and triggered wars among different sects or ethnicities.

For years, after the fall of Taliban extremist rule, the country witnessed a lot of distresses with the flow of many armed organizations like Al Qaeda. While Afghanistan was expected to live in peace with the entrance of the U.S. and NATO Forces, the war expanded and became more severe with Taliban’s re-empowerment, and the intervention of other organizations like ISIS that implanted its militants in the caves and mountains of the country.

This extremist activity had increased after 2012 when the international forces decided to reduce its fighters and to gradually hand over the security issue to the new-born Afghan army.

Iran, the western neighbor of Afghanistan had made the needed efforts to prove its political and security presence in the country, by intervening in the country’s interior affairs through the Shiite Hazara group and by funding hundreds of new social and media institutions in Kabul and other cities.

Recently, local media outlets and national officials in west and east Afghanistan have reported that Iran has opened channels of communication with Taliban, its traditional enemy, as the Islamic Republic following news on the recruitment of hundreds of Afghanis militants by the ISIS’s Afghan branch, Khorasan Province’s.

Reports also revealed that officials from Taliban visited Tehran, where they met Iranian officials seeking their support to combat the increasing danger of ISIS. While Tehran denied the receipt of these delegations, such behavior is always expected from Iran, which used to exploit these groups to enhance its political and security position.

Khan Tshiman, security expert and political analyst, says that by communicating with Taliban, Iran seeks to fail the dialogue attempts between the government in Kabul and Taliban, following the assassination on its Leader Mullah Omar. Tshiman adds that Islamic Republic protects its interests and aims to extend the war and to get the United States and its alliances more involved in the Afghani crisis.

As of Taliban, experts also see that it suffers from financial difficulties that push it to cooperate with Tehran. They also stressed on Pakistani information saying that the assassinated Mullah Mansour paid Iran a one-month visit and met local officials.

News also reported that Iran played the role of mediator between Taliban and Russia, which expressed its will to coordinate with the Afghan faction and to help it in combating ISIS, which threats to expand near the Russian boundaries in the areas of the Talbani dominance.

Hikmat Allah Safi, Afghan strategic expert, says that the Iranian policy toward Afghanistan is ambiguous and raises many suspicions, as it simultaneously supports the government in Kabul and its efforts in the dialogue and the conclusion of war communicates and coordinates with an armed group known as terrorist organizations like Taliban.

Safi continues that Tehran is violating the international law and disrespecting the political relations and the diplomatic channels among different countries. The expert concludes that the Islamic Republic anticipates a close war with ISIS in the region. Therefore, it will certainly try to enhance relations with Taliban.

Russia is another neighbor that also seeks to enhance dialogue with Taliban.The new developments reveal Russian attempts to expand its regional alliances to fight ISIS.

According to the American website, Daily Beast, Taliban is currently communicating with its neighboring countries from the Independent Commonwealth Countries (previous Soviet countries), even with Russia, which kicked it out from Afghanistan in 1989. The website notes that this communication comes as part of Moscow’s efforts to combat the influence of the extremist organization. Experts also suggested that the joint concerns of Russia and Taliban from the expansion of ISIS’ control is another main reason for this communication.

Some analysts see that the links with Russia appeared in public simultaneously with the visit of the Afghan President Abdul Rashid Dostum to Moscow and Shishan few months ago, where he verbally attacked ISIS and said that Commonwealth countries are ready to support them facing ISIS.

It’s worth mentioning that Russia has recently enhanced its security measures, in fear of extremists’ threats, especially in Caucasus region.

Mullah Abdul Salam, former leader in Taliban said that if the Russian intervention in Syria succeeded in defending Bashar Al Assad, the group will be eager to increase its ties with Moscow and to cooperate with President Vladimir Putin’s administration. Yet up till now, these communications, which place in Tajikistan are still discrete.

Recent statements for Russian officials were confusing. Zamir Kabulov, special Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan stated that Russia is communicating with Taliban to cooperate and negotiate on means to combat ISIS. However, Russian Ambassador to Kabul, Alexander Mantytskiy denied it.

Would this means that Russia is aiming to return to Afghanistan through its old enemy Taliban to combat ISIS after the defeat it faced in the same country in the late eighties?

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