Dr. Mohammad Marandi’s memoir on the role of General Shahid Soleimani and the current situation in Afghanistan
Part of the memoir of Dr. Marandi (Professor of English Literature and Oriental Studies, University of Tehran) in Al-Mayadin
When the Taliban (after the US-led invasion in 2001) were defeated and the remaining forces fled Afghanistan, Iranian allies in the Afghan government gained key positions. There seemed to be no need or justification for talking to this seemingly spent force (the Taliban). However, General Qassem Soleimani believed that the Taliban still enjoyed popular support among a significant portion of Pashtun tribes and populations in southern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, and that dialogue was the only way to lasting regional stability for all. .
General Soleimani also believed that in such a situation, the only force ready to significantly increase the cost of the US-led occupation (one of Iran’s key strategic goals) was the Taliban. He knew that in such a situation, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan would gradually become very problematic and unpopular in the West, and in the end, such a huge burden would hit the Western economy hard and force them to withdraw their forces from any of the two countries.
The goal of the Quds Force was to build mutual understanding and encourage the more moderate factions in the Taliban to gain the upper hand (in this group). General Soleimani believed that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan was inevitable and that after the liberation of the country, it was essential that Afghanistan not enter into another devastating civil war by the occupying forces.
The year 2011 was a significant turning point in relations and the visit of high-ranking Taliban delegations to Tehran began. As time went on, relations became warmer and even more personal, so much so that when General Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and their entourage were assassinated by the Trump regime at Baghdad International Airport, a high-ranking Taliban delegation traveled to Tehran and asked his family to offer their condolences.
While the allegations of Iranian military support to the Taliban against Afghan government forces are completely baseless, there was one important and obvious case that the Taliban asked Iran for help. Both Iranian intelligence and the Taliban knew that US-affiliated factions in the rapidly disintegrating ISIS had left Syria and entered Afghanistan. The Taliban called on the Quds Force to help them defeat what it considers to be a threat to their existence. Iran informed the Afghan government, although they were not very satisfied with such cooperation, but they did not object.
Finally, the Taliban made four commitments to the Quds Force. It maintains stability on the border with Iran, does not relinquish its opposition to the presence of foreign forces, does not target other tribes or sects, and “does not kill brothers.” While there are different factions with very different views on the Taliban, the Iranians have assessed that the current Taliban leadership has kept its promises over the years.
This relationship has helped the Islamic Republic of Iran act as an effective mediator in recent weeks and months, ensuring that the withdrawal of the occupying forces does not lead to civil war and that the new government includes all Afghans. Iran has strong reasons to believe that the sudden withdrawal of Western forces is designed to create instability and chaos in Afghanistan. The United States believes that if it fails to take control of Afghanistan, it should become a source of constant problems for Iran, China, Russia and even India. Meanwhile, significant sums of money are currently being sent by Saudi Arabia and two other countries in the region to support extremist takfiri groups in the Taliban. Iran is not naive, but doing whatever it can to prevent a catastrophe is a responsibility. If unsuccessful, the Quds Force will strongly support those who resist extremism and terrorism.