Iran expands support for Taliban, targets U.S. troops in Afghanistan

2020/01/1579582608.jpg
Read: 793     10:31     21 January 2020    

Escalating U.S.-Iran tensions mean Afghanistan, which shares a border with Iran, could be the next proxy battleground between Washington and Tehran, a clash that threatens to undermine the Trump administration’s pursuit of a peace deal with the Taliban and eventual drawdown of American troops.


Administration officials have recently warned of the potential for expanding Iranian activity in Afghanistan, and sources say Tehran’s support for the Taliban is well known in intelligence circles, where analysts are examining the extent to which the insurgent group already outsources some of its attack planning operations to Iran.

Communications intercepted between Taliban operatives based in Mashhad, Iran, and their counterparts working in Quetta, Pakistan, have exposed at least some level of such operational connectivity, one source told The Washington Times.

While Iran and the U.S. had parallel interests in Afghanistan in the post-9/11 era — opposing the Taliban and backing anti-Taliban governments in Kabul — regional experts say the situation has changed in more recent years.

Many warn that Tehran’s response to the recent U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this month could include a Tehran-engineered escalation in Afghanistan — with the dual goal of targeting American troops and undermining delicate talks currently playing out between the Taliban and Washington.

“Should Afghanistan become the venue for a U.S.-Iranian conflict, it’s hard to imagine then that it would be possible for the U.S. to withdraw forces, which would essentially make it very difficult to consider any kind of peace arrangement with the Taliban,” said former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson, a senior adviser to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Mr. Olson noted that Iran has the “levers” to foment violence in Afghanistan — not least of which are brigades of Shia Muslim Afghan and Pakistani fighters that Iranian special forces trained to fight in Syria in recent years.

The Washington Times



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News Line

Iran expands support for Taliban, targets U.S. troops in Afghanistan

2020/01/1579582608.jpg
Read: 794     10:31     21 January 2020    

Escalating U.S.-Iran tensions mean Afghanistan, which shares a border with Iran, could be the next proxy battleground between Washington and Tehran, a clash that threatens to undermine the Trump administration’s pursuit of a peace deal with the Taliban and eventual drawdown of American troops.


Administration officials have recently warned of the potential for expanding Iranian activity in Afghanistan, and sources say Tehran’s support for the Taliban is well known in intelligence circles, where analysts are examining the extent to which the insurgent group already outsources some of its attack planning operations to Iran.

Communications intercepted between Taliban operatives based in Mashhad, Iran, and their counterparts working in Quetta, Pakistan, have exposed at least some level of such operational connectivity, one source told The Washington Times.

While Iran and the U.S. had parallel interests in Afghanistan in the post-9/11 era — opposing the Taliban and backing anti-Taliban governments in Kabul — regional experts say the situation has changed in more recent years.

Many warn that Tehran’s response to the recent U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this month could include a Tehran-engineered escalation in Afghanistan — with the dual goal of targeting American troops and undermining delicate talks currently playing out between the Taliban and Washington.

“Should Afghanistan become the venue for a U.S.-Iranian conflict, it’s hard to imagine then that it would be possible for the U.S. to withdraw forces, which would essentially make it very difficult to consider any kind of peace arrangement with the Taliban,” said former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson, a senior adviser to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Mr. Olson noted that Iran has the “levers” to foment violence in Afghanistan — not least of which are brigades of Shia Muslim Afghan and Pakistani fighters that Iranian special forces trained to fight in Syria in recent years.

The Washington Times



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