In the wake of the killing of a powerful Iranian commander in Iraq, there is a palpable fear among the Taliban that the latest escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States could badly en danger Afghanistan’s fledgling peace talks.
The militant group is worried the rising regional tensions would hamper the Taliban’s peace effort with Washington. A source within the Taliban has said that the group doesn’t downplay the impact of the killing of Iranian elite force Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani on ongoing peace talks between the US and the Taliban. He said they don’t want to be hated by the Afghan people for fighting on someone else’s behalf.
Taliban’s former commander Sayed Akbar Agha said that Iran holds sway on a Taliban faction run by Mullah Akhtar Mansour in western and southern regions of Afghanistan. He acknowledged that the Taliban have no intention to use the Afghan soil for interests of outsiders. “The Taliban are patriotic and refuse to be hated in Afghanistan,” he said.
A US air raid killed Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces. The Pentagon confirmed the attack at Baghdad’s international airport, saying it came “at the direction of the president”.
Soleimani, 62, oversaw the external operations of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and was the architect of an expansion of Iranian influence across the Middle East in recent decades, controlling politicians and proxy militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen among other places.
The U.S. accused Iran last year of supplying missiles to the Taliban in the Middle East. Afghan officials in Ghazni said in the same year they had captured Iranian weapons from the Taliban in the province, allegations that Iran has always denied.
Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib met with the Iranian Ambassador to Kabul and called for diplomacy to end frictions between Tehran and Washington. “The national security advisor in his meeting with the Iranian ambassador said that Afghanistan assures its neighbors that its soil will not be used against any other country,” Mohib’s spokesman Jawed Faisal said.