What Do US-Iran Talks Mean for Afghanistan?


Right after a tumultuous period marked by rising violence and delayed implementation of the U.S.-Taliban peace offer signed in Doha this year, finally the clouds seem to be breaking in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and Afghan govt seem established to finish their prolonged-overdue prisoner trade and commence to intra-Afghan talks, as outlined by the Doha agreement. The Taliban also introduced a 3-day ceasefire for the duration of the Muslim competition of Eid ul Adha.

In the meantime, Afghanistan’s tortured romance with Pakistan is continuing to strengthen. Chief Afghan peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah is quickly to visit Islamabad as portion of his reconciliation initiatives.

There is also great news with regards to Afghanistan’s western neighbor, Iran. The United States and Iran have held unusual talks on Afghan reconciliation. The conferences captivated minimal consideration, but they could be vital to ending the war.

Iran has strong ties to Afghanistan and the ability to exert considerable impact there. It has long been argued that the U.S. will wrestle to apply an powerful peace deal with no Iran’s cooperation.

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Irrespective of their fierce strategic rivalry, which has escalated significantly because U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear offer (JCPOA) in 2018, Washington and Tehran share several common passions in Afghanistan.

Each want to see a withdrawal of NATO forces equally want to stymie the Afghan heroin trade both want to secure from terror groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State and the two want an inclusive governing administration in Kabul that is not monopolized by the Taliban.

It therefore makes fantastic sense to resuscitate the “Six As well as Two” structure, which provides with each other Afghanistan’s six neighbors (which include Iran), together with the U.S. and Russia, to tackle the Afghan conflict below UN auspices.


The structure was initially established to assistance stabilize Afghanistan just after the Taliban seized electric power in 1996. Adhering to the 9/11 attacks the United States and Iran held their possess mystery bilateral talks less than the “Six In addition Two” umbrella.

Tehran offered considerable military and intelligence guidance to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, but cooperation collapsed with previous U.S. President George W. Bush’s inclusion of Iran in the “axis of evil” and his subsequent war in Iraq in 2003.

Now, as Washington tries to depart Afghanistan, the structure is becoming revitalized. American main negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has participated in “Six Plus Two” conversations with Iran and Afghanistan’s other neighbors this 12 months.

Since assuming the Afghan portfolio in 2018, Khalilzad has performed a great deal traveling in the location, checking out Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere. But Tehran has never been aspect of his itinerary, and Iranian officials did not attend the signing of the Doha deal in February.

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Even so, it was constantly heading to be really hard to conclusion the Afghan war without the need of Tehran’s aid. Iran has a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and holds strong cultural and spiritual ties to its neighbor.

Dari, one particular of Afghanistan’s two official languages, is the phrase for the many Persian dialects spoken in Afghanistan — known as Farsi in Iran. More than 10 % of the Afghan populace adheres to Shia Islam, the the vast majority denomination of Iran, and Tehran has prolonged patronized the predominantly Shia Hazara ethnic minority.

Till not too long ago, Iran was Afghanistan’s major trading companion, and economic backlinks continue being sturdy. Tehran has pumped funds into faculties, clinics, mosques, and other kinds of “soft electric power.” The western town of Herat is acknowledged as “Little Iran” because of to the Iranian influence there.

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What’s more, there are hundreds of thousands of lawful and unlawful Afghan immigrants in Iran. Some have been drafted into a Shia militia, the Fatemiyoun, which Tehran sent to battle in Syria. There are now fears that the Fatemiyoun could be redeployed to Afghanistan.

Iran also has extensive-standing one-way links to Afghan politicians and warlords, owning supported the anti-Taliban opposition in the 1990s. And, even with the history of animosity amongst Shia Iran and the Sunni Taliban, Tehran has cultivated nearer ties to its former adversary.

Iran’s influence was apparent following the U.S. assassination of Iranian Basic Qassem Soleimani in January. A host of substantial-profile Afghan politicians issued statements condemning the strike, such as previous President Hamid Karzai and Hanif Atmar, now Afghanistan’s international minister.


Tehran’s links with Afghan political elites give it appreciable sway over the upcoming intra-Afghan talks. Given the fractious mother nature of Afghan domestic politics, acquiring the many factions to cooperate will be difficult.

In accordance to the U.N., Iran not too long ago served settle disagreements between Afghan political figures relating to the development of a committee to negotiate with the Taliban. This is a sign of the constructive job Tehran could probably engage in in the peace procedure.

Tehran also has ties to Taliban factions that oppose reconciliation, this kind of as the new splinter group, Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami. This provides it the possible to facilitate intra-Afghan talks by encouraging unite the a variety of Taliban elements guiding a prevalent place.

Though Tehran wields substantially clout in Afghanistan, it does not have a spotless track record. Afghan refugees have been taken care of harshly in Iran. A group of migrants had been allegedly tortured and drowned by Iranian border guards in May, sparking outrage.

Also, any cooperation among Iran and the United States might be hampered by soaring bilateral tensions. In recent months Iran has been strike by repeated explosions at its nuclear facilities – most most likely a covert sabotage marketing campaign waged by Israeli and/or U.S. intelligence.

What’s more, a showdown is expected at the U.N. Security Council in Oct when the U.S. will check out to extend the arms embargo towards Iran. China and Russia will possible block the American move. If so, the U.S. is threatening to use the “snapback” system in the nuclear offer to reimpose sanctions unilaterally and proficiently eliminate off the JCPOA. This would very likely precipitate a major intercontinental disaster and jeopardize any cooperation on Afghanistan.

But Iran is surely eager to finish the war, which threatens its nationwide passions in many ways, ranging from refugee flows, to drug smuggling, to terrorist action waged by the Islamic Condition and other teams.

Although Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign gives Tehran an incentive to retaliate from the United States, targeting U.S. forces in Afghanistan would only extend the conflict and endanger Iran’s nationwide stability.

Offered that Washington and Tehran the two want to close the war, they may be equipped to insulate Afghanistan from their broader strategic rivalry. The United States has labored with Russia and China on Afghan affairs, inspite of deteriorating political associations with the two individuals nations around the world.

Cooperation will absolutely get less complicated if Joe Biden wins the presidential election and re-joins the JCPOA, as he has pledged. Even if it proves unattainable to rescue the nuclear deal, a Biden administration would definitely undertake a a lot less hawkish solution to Iran.

“Maximum pressure” has failed to extract any concessions from Tehran, although undermining America’s attempts to stop the Afghan war. Withdrawing from the JCPOA was an unwanted, counterproductive blunder.

Rupert Stone is an independent journalist concentrating on Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.