Taliban and Iran: Does the movement pose a threat to the mullah regime?
The Taliban movement shares Iran’s hostility towards the United States, which is considered the greatest common enemy between the two parties. This eternal hostility has always brought the two conflicting sectarian parties together under one umbrella, although the relations between them have experienced long periods of ups and downs as a result of intertwining or incompatible interests due to sectarian differences. However, what divides sectarian differences is united by pragmatism and common interests, which appeared in many situations, highlighting the most important question for Tehran at present, which is whether the movement poses a threat to the Iranian Republic or not.
The answer came from former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who confirmed his fear of the continuation of the relationship between the Taliban and Tehran, despite his support for the movement while he was in power.
In a video recording on Saturday, August 14, Ahmadinejad opened eyes about the existence of secret relations between Taliban leaders and Iranian intelligence. He explained that he had received a threat from a senior security official because of these confessions, noting that the militias in power in Tehran sent him an explicit threat to him personally, his family, and some those close to him because of his warnings about the existence of secret relations between the leaders of the movement and what he described as a corrupt security gang in Tehran.
Ahmadinejad said that the Afghan people have become victims of the “diabolical policies” of the great powers and countries in the region, in reference to his country's interference in Afghan affairs.
Regarding the accusations leveled at Iran of sending arms to the movement, he asked, “Everyone claims to be sympathetic to the Afghan people. If you are really sympathetic, why do you send weapons? Why do you support conflicts?”
On Sunday, August 15, Ava Today revealed that the senior security officials referred to by Ahmadinejad are General Hassan Mohaqeq, deputy head of the intelligence service of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Hossein Taeb, head of the IRGC intelligence service.
The Taliban movement had long relied on Iranian support during the years that followed its departure from power after the events of September 11, 2001, but Iran even provided military support to the movement after the 1990s, which witnessed bloody confrontations between the Taliban and the Hazara Shiites. Then relations began to take another more pragmatic curve after its departure from power, during Ahmadinejad’s presidency, including:
- Establishing a leadership center for the movement with the support of the Revolutionary Guards in the Iranian city of Mashhad.
- Strengthening cooperation between the leaders of the movement and the IRGC, led by late Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour and current leader Haibatullah Akhundzadeh.
- Significant military support for the movement, whether through training or financial support. In March 2011, a report by the British Special Forces revealed that Iran was sending weapons to the Taliban and providing them with financial support and military training, while reports from the Pentagon indicated that the IRGC provided funding to the Taliban estimated at $190 million annually.
The Taliban recognizes the continuation of relations with Tehran despite the sectarian differences between the two parties. On July 13, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid expressed the movement’s desire to continue these relations, saying, “Undoubtedly, we want a strong brotherly relationship with Iran. Iran is our neighbor, and we have common values with it. We in Islam Qala have approached the Iranian border where there is a friendly relationship with the Iranian soldiers.”
In January 2020, the extremist movement mourned late Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, saying in a statement published at the time, “We were informed with great sadness that General Qassem Soleimani was killed in an attack launched by the barbaric American forces.”
“The Emirate of Afghanistan affirms its continuation in the face of American brutality and occupation,” the statement added.
The Afghanistan Times website published a statement by Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, in which he confirmed that the killing of Soleimani was undoubtedly an important event, describing Soleimani as a great mujahid.