The Taliban Delegation Visits Tehran
A Taliban delegation headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Head of the Taliban Political Office, visited Tehran on 26 January. “A delegation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan consisting of senior officials went to Tehran to exchange ideas with Iranian officials on relations between the two countries, the situation of Afghan refugees, and the political and security issues in the region," said Mohammad Naeem, Spokesman for the Taliban's Political Office in Doha, on his social media account. This visit, which took place through the invitation of Iran, is the second visit of the Taliban to Tehran in the last 2 months. Mullah Baradar previously met with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran, where he went with a delegation on November 26. So, what does this invitation of the Taliban to Tehran mean in the current conjuncture?
According to the Doha Agreement signed between the USA and the Taliban on February 29, 2020, American forces must fully withdraw from Afghanistan by next May. However, the statements from Washington are that the Agreement should be revised or at least the withdrawal of the US forces postponed to a later date. On January 22, Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a phone call with Afghanistan's National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib that they would review the agreement signed with the Taliban. This was followed by similar statements from Biden's Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. The remarks from Washington have raised questions about whether the Biden administration will abide by the Doha Agreement. During his election campaign, Biden has stated many times that he is in favour of maintaining a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan. However, according to experts, this request, which amounts to a violation of the Doha Agreement, is unlikely to be accepted by the Taliban. “Joe Biden’s administration needs to be fully attentive to implementing the Doha agreement, which will end America’s longest war” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on January 19. On the other hand, it has been seen that the Taliban has taken some steps in recent days as a reaction to Washington's attitude. After a nearly three-week break, the second phase of the Afghan negotiations, which began on January 6, came to a standstill as the Taliban delegation did not participate in the meetings. Nader Naderi, the spokesman for the delegation representing the Afghan government in Doha, said on his social media account that the Taliban delegation has not participated in the meetings for 9 days. In this context, the second action of the Taliban was to increase its attacks across the country. In recent weeks, a number of Afghan security forces lost their lives in the intense attacks launched by the Taliban to capture the Obe District of Herat, which is located on the Iranian border. The report, prepared by the delegation sent by the Afghan Parliament's Internal Security Commission to Herat to make observations on January 25th, highlighted the role of Iran in the growing instability in the region. Abdul Satar Hussaini, the head of the delegation, said that as a result of research, they determined that 22 dangerous opposition groups operating in the region were provided with weapons and financial support by Iran. Hussaini also claimed that Iran had a hand in the deterioration of Herat’s security. The invitation of the Taliban to Tehran is an important message to the new administration in Washington in an environment where the Taliban have increased its attacks and discussions continue about how the new US administration will pursue a policy towards Afghanistan. Tehran is aware of the impasse facing the new Washington administration in Afghanistan. So Tehran, which expects Biden to return to the Nuclear Deal, wants to send a message through the Taliban that it is also one of the key actors in the Afghanistan issue. On the other hand, there is also a similar situation for the Taliban, who doubts Biden's commitment to the Doha Agreement. The Taliban has given the message that if the Washington administration violates the agreement, it would risk leaving the negotiating table and fight again.