A new finding by a delegation of Afghanistan’s parliament shows that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been providing support, both with funds and by supplying weapons, to 22 "dangerous" groups in the country’s Herat province. The delegation, led by Abdol Sattar Hosseini and accompanied by Habiba al-Rahman Pedram, Hamidollah Hanif, and Karamoddin Rezazadeh, traveled to Herat on January 4, 2021, and later said that 195 distinct militant groups were operating in that province alone, were actively moving against the Afghan government, and that 11 terrorist networks are operating in Herat.
In an interview with IranWire, Herat Police Commander Soltan Davoud said that 18 kidnappings have occurred in the province since March 2020. The Afghan parliament members claim that some of these kidnappings are carried out with the assistance of forces from Iran. Herat has taken on strategic importance for the Islamic Republic because of its 300 factories, a large presence of investors, the water dams of Salma and Pashdan, and the border it shares not only with Iran but also Turkmenistan.
The volatile security situation created by militants and other elements in Herat has increased in the past two months, including in Ghourian, Golran and Shindand, which were targeted by the Taliban. In the past month, there have been at least four Taliban attacks on Ghourian city center. According to the investigation of the Afghan parliamentary delegation, in addition to this, proxy forces of the Islamic Republic are also active in the region and have been working to create terror and a sense of insecurity among the residents of the region.
Abdol Sattar Hosseini, a member of the Afghan parliament, told IranWire that groups affiliated with the Islamic Republic were systematically creating insecurity in Herat.
"There are 22 groups affiliated with Iran, including the most dangerous opposition groups in Afghanistan,” Hosseini said. “Examples of their activities are kidnapping doctors and businessmen and making highways unsafe. This has damaged the mental health of the people of Herat. Iran's proxy forces are trying to achieve their goals by fanning the flames of war in Herat."
The chair of the Afghan parliament delegation also stated that the Islamic Republic offers residency to the families of members of the militant groups and treats them if they are injured in battle with Afghanistan’s government forces. The MP criticized Iran for sending weapons to Taliban and other fighters.
Hosseini told IranWire that cases documenting Iran’s interference in Herat had been handed over to Afghanistan’s National Security Directorate.
"Iran supports the Taliban in the western provinces of Afghanistan. The Iranian Taliban are present in Herat, Farah and Nimrouz, and are attacking our security forces,” Hosseini added.
Meanwhile, three months ago, Herat Governor Seyed Vahid Ghatali, in a meeting with investors and goldsmiths in the province, without mentioning Iran, said that a neighboring country was supporting terror and insecurity to extract capital and gold from Herat.
The Iranian government's alleged financial and weapons support to the Taliban comes as officials in the Islamic Republic have repeatedly admitted that they are in contact with the group. On December 21, 2020, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Tolou News that the Taliban was a reality in Afghanistan.
Earlier, Ahmad Naderi, a member of the Iranian parliament, called the Taliban one of the "genuine movements in the region," adding that: “Their presence in the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Doha should be considered auspicious. Working with them can lead to the spread of stability in Afghan society and prevent the infiltration of groups like ISIS. We should not fall into the trap of misrepresentations as seen in the American media."
But some members of the Afghan parliament have accused Iran of meddling in the country's internal affairs. They have repeatedly called on Tehran to strengthen its ties with the government instead of supporting proxy militants – but this demand does not seem to matter to the Iranian government.