Iran has held talks with a delegation from Afghanistan's Taliban, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on September 17.
The announcement comes a week after peace talks between the US and the Sunni Islamist insurgents collapsed.
Last year, Afghan government officials accused Tehran, which the US has said is attempting to increase its influence in western Afghanistan, of supplying the Taliban with money, weapons and explosives. Iran has denied it.
In October, Washington alleged Iran was providing military training, financing and weapons to the Taliban. Iran also rejected that claim.
"In the framework of Iran's comprehensive consultations with all parties in Afghanistan, a Taliban political delegation visited our country recently to discuss the latest developments in Afghanistan with... Iranian officials," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by state media. He did not disclose further details.
One perspective that would explain the meeting is that Iran is trying to gain extra leverage in Afghanistan that would be a threat to US armed forces deployed in the country in the event of Tehran’s nuclear deal standoff with the Trump administration worsening, or should the US and Saudi Arabia opt for military strikes against the Iranians in the wake of last weekend’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which they blame on the Islamic Republic.
Shi’ite Muslim Iran was an adversary of the Taliban for most of the time it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. In 1998, Iranian troops were deployed to the border after 11 of Iran’s diplomats were killed in Afghanistan. Tehran subsequently armed Shi’ite factions that helped US-led forces dislodge the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 Twin Towers attacks.
Iran said last December it had been meeting with Taliban representatives with the knowledge of the Afghan government. That statement came after reports of US-Taliban talks aimed at achieving a ceasefire and a possible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. But last week, the US-Taliban talks collapsed and there was an upsurge in fighting in the war-torn country.
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