Tehran is reportedly betting on the Taliban’s rise and is providing the militant movement with arms and training to secure leverage over it. Iran wants influence to counter the US and have fighters ready for a possible offensive by Islamic State.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Iran has been providing the Taliban not only with money, but also hosted training camps in its territory since at least the fall of 2013. The US newspaper cites Western and Afghan officials and also a Taliban commander, who, the report says, was recruited by Iranian intelligence and is currently on Iran’s payroll.
“Iran is betting on the re-emergence of the Taliban,” a Western diplomat told WSJ. “They are uncertain about where Afghanistan is heading right now, so they are hedging their bets.”
Iran’s support of the Taliban is an alliance of convenience, according to the report. Iran is a Shiite country while the Taliban is Sunni, a difference that is difficult to bridge. In 2001, Tehran didn’t object to the ousting of the Taliban from power by a US-led invasion.
However, things have evolved, and with Taliban influence in Afghanistan growing, having a hand in it is becoming a useful asset. In 2013, the Iranians officially invited a Taliban delegation to an Islam conference.
WSJ interviewed Abdullah, a Taliban commander, who said he was an Afghan illegal immigrant in Iran, who was recruited by Iranian intelligence. He currently receives $580-a-month salary as well as necessary supplies from his sponsors, he said. Among the weapons he can order are 82mm mortars, light machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, he added.
Abdullah and Afghan official said Iran operates four training camps for the Taliban in the Iranian cities of Tehran, Mashhad and Zahedan and in the province of Kerman.
The report points to Tayeb Agha, the head of the Taliban’s office in Qatar, as the main connection between the movement and Iran.
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