Taliban enhance diplomatic contacts with Iran, Russia
The Express Tribune reported that Maulvi Nek Muhammad, who was education director when Taliban ruled southern Kandahar province before being topplled in 2001, is the Taliban’s envoy in Tehran. “Maulvi Nek Muhammad is a frequent visitor to Iran,” the newspaper quoted a source in the group as saying.
“We have named envoys for several other countries, including Central Asian States, and have also increased contacts with Russia,” said the Taliban leader, who requested not to be identified in the report.
The group also enjoy good relations with China. A Taliban delegation visited the People’s Republic in July at the invitation of Beijing. Last year, the Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan said his country considered the Afghan Taliban a ‘major political force’.
The emerging threat from Islamic State, or Da’ish, and longer stay of the US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan had been seen as main reasons behind Iran’s growing relationship with the Taliban. Da’ish claimed credit for deadly attacks on Shia mourners this Muharram in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. The Taliban condemned the attacks motivated by sectarian hatred.
For years, the Taliban and Iran had been bitter foes and their relations touched the lowest ebb in 1998 when Taliban fighters stormed the Iranian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif. Ten Iranian consulate staffers and an Iranian journalist were killed in the attack.
A lukewarm response from most Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, pushed the Taliban to reach out to Tehran, according to insiders. The group angrily reacted to a plan of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to hold a conference of religious scholars in the holy cities of Makkah and Madina in mid-October. The conference, which the Taliban described as a ‘plot of intelligence agencies’, was subsequently postponed.
Taliban leaders were now frequent visitors to Iran as they are campaigning to find new allies, a second Taliban leader told The Express Tribune. A three-member Taliban military delegation, headed by military commission chief Ibrahim Sadr, visited Tehran this year in an apparent move to ‘seek military aid’ from Iran.
The delegations are said to have allayed Iran’s concerns about the harsh treatment of the Shia Hazaras during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Officially, Iran has never confirmed the Taliban’s visits; however, the Iranian media close to the security establishment confirmed such visits on several occasions.
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