Can Iran Save Afghanistan from Unending Conflict?

For almost two decades the United States has carried out a murderous occupation of Afghanistan. Following the events of 9/11, the US has sought to use the event as a justification to expand the American empire further. Under the pretext of “fighting terrorism,” the US has carried out brutal war after brutal war upon sovereign states whose only crime is resisting US control. Thus far the US has gone unchallenged by the international regulatory bodies that are intended to prevent such actions, and resolve such conflicts.

In the past two decades, the US has murdered over a million and a half Afghans in its attempt to take control of the country. They’ve had assistance from other imperialist states such as Canada. The Taliban have been an impressive force in undermining the US efforts to do so. The guerrilla military strategy of the group has been very successful in preventing the US from gaining full control of the country.

It is now obvious: the US has failed in its goal to defeat the Taliban and bring the entire country to heel.

Thus far current US president Donald Trump has been the least competent when it comes to the foreign affairs of the US. Now Iran has sought to step up and fill the void left by Trump’s failed attempt at leadership. Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (NSC), has announced that he has been speaking to Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan president’s national security advisor. The two spoke in Kabul on Dec. 26.

It seems ties between Afghanistan and Iran are getting a great boost. Why? The US has announced that there will be a partial pull out of military forces from the country. The hope is that the Afghan security forces will be sufficient to stop the Taliban militants. It should be noted that no one really has such hopes. The withdraw by the US is the political whim of Trump, who is attempting to carry out as much of his failed campaign promises as he can. With the noose of investigation ever tightening around him and his administration, Trump is attempting to pull out the populist moves to shore up public support.

This will leave a power vacuum in Afghanistan as the local government will not be able to make up for the loss of US firepower and political power. It appears the Afghans are turning towards the regional power of Iran. Iran sees the possibility of increasing ties with the county. For them it’s a “wonderful opportunity” to achieve peace, “based on internal and regional opportunities.”

Shamkhani says there is an opportunity to have a real dialogue with the Taliban over the future of the country.  Iran seeks a peaceful resolution with “those who are ready to lay down their arms and be with the people of Afghanistan.” Many see this as the best alternative to endless US occupation and murder of the population. It is clear that the US has failed to defeat the Taliban after 17 years of bloodshed. Even with US assistance the Afghan government only controls roughly 50% of the country’s regions. This is the lowest level of control since 2015. It is acknowledged by all powers (except the US) that the US presence is only making the situation more difficult.

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has claimed that the US cannot leave “before the diplomats have won the peace.” This statement was, however, contradicted by US meeting in the United Arab Emirates in the latter part of 2018. The Taliban made it perfectly clear that they were unwilling to speak to the delegation from the Afghan government. Instead, they preferred to speak directly with the US government.

Iran has its own interests in mind as well. When the US invasion began they supported the action. However, after nearly two decades of failure Iran has to deal with substantial chaos along their border with the country. Opium production in Afghanistan is at record levels with nearly 95% of the global supply of heroin comes from the poppy fields. This is seen as the primary cause of drug trafficking across the Afghan-Iran border. Estimates by the Iranian government suggest that 2.5 million Iranians regularly abuse such drugs. No doubt Iran also sees the Taliban as a force that undermines US influence in a country right on its border. They’re already of the opinion that the US could use Afghanistan as a staging point for an invasion of Iran in the future. Add to this the fact that the Taliban might be the only real choice when it comes to fighting the Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Finally, there is no doubt that there is money to be made in a post-war Afghanistan. It is estimated that there is $3 trillion USD in oil and gas, iron ore, gold, and copper that have yet to be exploited in the country. Afghanistan has little to no mining expertise and technology, they’ll have to get it from someone.

It seems to many that a strategic alliance with Iran focused on peaceful dialogue may just be what is needed, in preference to the unending conflict and killing that occurs under US occupation.