Iran’s Afghanistan problem is one that is set to dominate the landscape of the region for the next 12-24. Iran will attempt to exert control over the newly formed Taliban government. It is highly likely tensions between the regional power and the junior Taliban government will get worse before they get better.
Following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021 Iran celebrated the failure of the US foreign policy. However, since then tensions between Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Taliban government have continued to grow. This is the result of the increasing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the security risk that an unstable Afghanistan poses to regional security. Especially along the almost 900km border it shares with its neighbour. Iran will hold the Taliban accountable to the promises it made when it regained control of Afghanistan. This is before it will even consider formally recognising the Taliban as a legitimate government of its neighbour. (source)
Key Judgement 1: It is highly unlikely that the border tensions between Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan will result in armed conflict in the next 12 months.
- In late April 2022 Iran moved its 88th Armoured Division of Zahedan to the border with Afghanistan. This was due to skirmishes at the border crossing near Islam Qala (Afghanistan) and Dogharoon (Iran). (source)
- Iran sending military units to the border has been described as routine by Tehran. However, Iran is flexing its military might to dissuade the Taliban from attempting further skirmishes.
- Furthermore, on the 22nd of June 2022, there was a skirmish on the border in Afghanistan’s Nimruz Province. This involved Iranian border guards and Taliban fighters. Allegedly, Iranian border guards shot two children. The Taliban retaliated by capturing two of Iran’s border guards. (source)
- As a result of Iran’s military power and Afghanistan’s relatively weak economic and military power conflict is improbable at best. Iran has no desire to get into a full-scale war with its neighbour as long as the Taliban do not test their resolve. (source)
Key Judgement 2: With an unstable Afghanistan on its doorstep, it is highly likely that in the next 12 months Iran will seek to ally itself with other nations in the region to hold the Taliban accountable for security in Afghanistan.
- On the 18th May 2022 Major General Baqeri of Iran met with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon. They discussed the growing need for co-operation between the two countries in an effort to bring stability to the West Asia region Security in Afghanistan a top priority for both countries. (source)
- Iran has also held talks with Pakistan and Russia to discuss security and need for an inclusive government in Kabul. (source) (source)
- Therefore, it is likely that Iran will seek to exert control over the Taliban regime in Afghanistan with a number of key allies in the region. As a result of these discussions pressure will be sure to mount on the regime in Kabul.
Key Judgement 3: The growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will likely lead to an increase in tensions between Iran and the Taliban in the next 12 months.
- As a result of the growing economic and humanitarian crisis that has gripped Afghanistan since the Taliban swept to power in August 2022 it is reported that between 4000-5000 refugees are entering Iran every day from Afghanistan. The number totaling over 1 Million since August 2021. (source)
- Facing its own economic problems due to sanctions and water shortage Iran has stepped up deportation of migrants back to Afghanistan. Leading to growing friction with the Taliban and the international community over how migrants are treated. (Source)
- The growing number of migrants crossing into Iran will likely exacerbate Iran’s Afghanistan problem. As it seeks to get a handle on the growing number of undocumented migrants crossing the border. With the Taliban somewhat hypocritically lamenting the treatment of Afghans in Iran. (source)
Intelligence cut off 13/07/2022