Iran and Afghanistan share culture, language, societal commonalities and regional interest. Iran might be the most influential regional player in Afghanistan developments.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ensuing rapid advancement of Taliban force across the country has led to fresh developments in the Middle East. The region is in need of a new power balance and new players may get involved. Two decades after the United States assaulted the country, destroyed the cities and dominated the administrative system, alternative regional players find a chance to have a role.
In part one of this note, I analyzed the role of communities like Shanghai Cooperation Organization in reaching a resolution to the current crisis. I also focused on Russia and China as two superpowers seeking to replace the US in the Middle East. The second part focuses on Iran and Afghanistan as neighboring countries. Iran’s involvement in Afghanistan dates back to decades ago and will definitely last for many more decades.
Iran and Afghanistan
Iran and Afghanistan have a shared history and speak two variants of the same language. Iran has hosted hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals during the years after the US occupation. Besides, cultural and societal commonalities between Iran and Afghanistan reinforces Tehran’s influence as an active regional player.
Tehran has been one of the first parties to ignite negotiation between Taliban and Afghan government officials. The talks aim at putting the post-withdrawal condition under control. For Iranian officials, Taliban is an extremist group whose presence in Afghan politics is unavoidable. As a result, Tehran says, reaching an Afghan-Afghan resolution will serve the benefits of people in the country.
In comparison with Russia and China, Iran is definitely a horse of different color for in Afghanistan. Tehran has had much more incentives to see the collapse of US and its face in the region.
Nevertheless, the silent joy of Tehran, along with Moscow and Beijing, at finding the US humiliated in Afghanistan is tempered by concerns about the lasting consequences of Washington’s withdrawal. The rejoice in US loss is one thing and dealing with Taliban’s rebirth and regional tensions is another.
Iran does not want Afghanistan to revert to being a hotbed for regional terrorism. Prospective Taliban assistance for terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda is a key source of concern for Iran. The Taliban’s religious extremism and repressive record in dealing with dissidents cannot be overlooked by Tehran.
By the way, Iran and Afghanistan have many reasons to aid each other in the current sensitive crossroad. Afghanistan’s delve into an infinite civil war and societal crisis will affect Iran’s security in its long borderlines. Besides, migration crisis, which Iran has hardly managed to control since 2000, will deteriorate the condition for Tehran.
Afghanistan can benefit from Iran, China and Russia’s economic, security, and military assistance in the face of regional and international threats. A safe Afghanistan is a better nest for any party involved in the country’s developments including Taliban.
Pakistan, as another neighboring country for Afghanistan might also affect the developments in the coming months. Pakistanis are concerned about the violence spreading east of the Durand Line, and hostile organizations such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan obtaining safe haven in Afghanistan.
The Pakistan-China partnership appears to have certain merits in Afghanistan. Islamabad’s close ties with Taliban, along with Beijing’s vast financial capabilities, might theoretically aid Afghanistan’s development. However, there are several unknown factors that obscure the scenario.
The Taliban is still a significant factor. If the Taliban refuses to acknowledge the concerns of all communities in Afghanistan, a fresh civil crisis will be the result. The group’s commanders, however, signaled a change of conduct in talks with regional players during the recent weeks.
Iran and Afghanistan –including Taliban and the Afghan government- might be the main role-players in the coming months. Impeding a bloody civil war has been Iran and Afghanistan government’s main goal since the start of US withdrawal. Taliban’s interests reside in joining the initiative; the leaders and commanders are still pondering on the issue.