Some of America’s biggest adversaries are now jockeying to replace the U.S. as the chief foreign power in Afghanistan.
Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey have emerged as leading candidates to work alongside the Taliban, who are engaged in an offensive that has reportedly seen them take control of at least half of Afghanistan as American troops are nearing the completion of their withdrawal. Iranian officials led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have met Taliban leaders in recent days to discuss Iran’s future intentions in Afghanistan, according to the Guardian. (RELATED: Taliban Takeover Of Critical Areas During Biden Withdrawal Suggests Grim Future For Afghanistan)
Zarif helped mediate talks between the Taliban and Afghan government officials in Tehran. The parties issued a joint statement calling for a diplomatic settlement to Afghanistan’s civil war, and the Taliban declared opposition to attacks on civilians, schools, mosques and hospitals.
Some in Iran fear that a prolonged conflict will spill across the border into their country, according to the Guardian. Some estimates reportedly indicate that as many as one million Afghans will flee the fighting across the roughly 430-mile border with Iran. Millions of undocumented Afghans already live in Iran, according to the Guardian.
Interesting diplomacy is afoot. Separate Taliban delegations have visited Iran and Russia over the last two days, at the same time when Indian FM Jaishankar was visiting both countries. No indication that he was present at either meeting, but the timing is striking nonetheless.
— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) July 9, 2021
Meanwhile, Russia has worked to secure assurances from the Taliban that the militants won’t begin launching attacks on former Soviet republics, and Turkey has offered troops to a NATO-led mission to protect the Kabul airport. (RELATED: Pentagon Admits Taliban Advances In Afghanistan Are ‘Concerning’)
A Taliban delegation in Moscow assured Russia that Afghanistan would not be used as a launching point for foreign attacks during discussions held Friday, according to Reuters.
Both the U.S. and the UK are nearing the completion of a full withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Taliban have quickly marched through the country in recent months, prompting scores of Afghan fighters to flee into neighboring countries like Tajikistan. (RELATED: Report: Biden Admin To Ease Trump Sanctions Regime On Key American Adversaries)
Taliban militants have taken over multiple critical border crossings during their offensive, including with Iran. Their fighters have reportedly been hunting down Afghan military pilots and translators who worked with the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is scrambling to safely evacuate Afghan interpreters as American troops make their way out of the country.