Iran continues to support the Taliban with weapons, training and funding to counter US and Western influence in Afghanistan, according to a Pentagon report released on Tuesday.
A US Defense Intelligence report said “Stronger partners, such as Hezbolloh, are highly capable, reliable, and receptive to Tehran. Other groups, such as the Afghan Taliban, are less receptive to Iranian guidance but still help further Iran’s regional objectives because they combat common enemies,” the report said.
Iran’s relationship with the Taliban has evolved over the years. Following the Taliban’s rise to power in the 1990s, Iran refused to recognize the group as a legitimate government.
“In 1998, Iran nearly went to war with Afghanistan after the Taliban captured and killed nine Iranian diplomats,” the report said, but added “relations began to thaw after the US invasion of Afghanistan.”
Since at least 2007, Iran has provided “calibrated support”—including weapons, training, and funding—to the Taliban to counter US and Western influence in Afghanistan, combat Daesh-Khorasan, and increase Tehran’s influence in any post-reconciliation government, it said.
“Iran balances this support as part of its “dual-track strategy” for engaging both local groups and the Afghan government in Kabul to achieve its broader security goals. Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said.
Iran’s biggest customers include Syria, Hezbolloh in Lebanon, and Iraqi Shia militias, but Iran has also provided weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, Palestinian groups, and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the report pointed out.