Eight years ago, I took part in a meeting among people from several different countries IRAN, various European countries, Afghanistan, Turkey, and the United States. RELATIONSHIP RELATIONSHIP
I was a part-time consultant to the U.S. government at the time, and most of the group had been or — at least — were close to government officials.
These are known as “track-two meetings.” During one of the sessions, a European participant charged Iran with supplying military aid to the Taliban.
A retired Iranian diplomat responded indignantly. “How could Iran supply aid to its sworn enemies?” he asked.
I responded that Iranians were not such simple-minded people that they could have only one enemy or one policy at a time.
Iran’s position on the agreement between the United States and the Afghan Taliban signed in Qatar earlier this year may likewise appear confusing.
In 1998, Iran nearly went to war with Afghanistan, then mostly under Taliban rule, when Pakistani fighters allied with the Taliban killed 11 Iranian civilians in Mazar-i Sharif, including nine diplomats.
In 2001, Iran helped the United States remove and replace Taliban rule in Afghanistan with both military and intelligence support on the ground in Afghanistan and diplomatic support at the U.N.
talks on Afghanistan in Bonn. For years, Iran opposed political outreach to the Taliban and rejected any distinction between them and al-Qaeda.
As the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan approached its 20th anniversary and the United States withdrew from the nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic and imposed additional sanctions, Iran echoed the Taliban in calling for the complete withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, the main Taliban demand that the United States met in the Doha agreement.
Iran also began supplying Taliban commanders in western Afghanistan with weapons both to send a message to the United States and to deal with threats on or close to the Afghan-Iranian border.