Media reports this week indicate a delegation of Afghan Taliban had recently travelled to Iran and met with officials there. The Taliban representatives that visited Iran belonged to the groups’ political office in Doha.
While Taliban have confirmed the trip and the meetings, Iran has not verified this information. On the other hand, representatives of Afghan government have commented that they have sought information from Iran on what transpired during these gatherings. Meanwhile, according to unnamed sources from Pakistan, such meetings have taken place in the past as well.
The timing of the contact between Afghan Taliban and Iran, if it has taken place, is peculiar. And, the question arises at whose behest the initiative was undertaken. Afghan Taliban have travelled to Iran in the backdrop of President Karzai’s recent trip to India, where he requested its arms and military training. Moreover, the border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan are also on the rise.
Whoever may be behind the initiative, the timing is completely off. The sectarian tensions are on the rise in the Middle East, as they relate to the Syrian crisis. The Iranian supported Hezbollah has gotten directly involved in the conflict there.
The situation has worsen to such an extent that the influential president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Qardawi commented in Doha, “every Muslim trained to fight and capable of doing that [must] make himself available” to conduct Jihad against the Assad regime and Hezbollah. On the other hand, Qardawi’s statement was praised by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-ASheikh.
In this evolving environment, it would be impossible for Sunni Afghan Taliban to continue their engagement with Shia Iran.