November 17, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9642

Article In Pakistani Weekly: 'The Iranian Military Facilitated The [Afghan] Taliban Through The IRGC Quds Force'

November 17, 2021
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 9642

In an article written a few weeks before the jihadi organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) agreed to an interim ceasefire with Pakistan to facilitate peace talks, Pakistani writer Umer Farooq discussed the regional security situation, especially the cooperative relationship between the Afghan Taliban and the Iranian military.

TTP released a video in November 2021 showing its fighters undergoing training

Umer Farooq's article, titled "How Far Can Pakistan Rely On The Afghan Taliban To Manage Its TTP Problem?" was published by The Friday Times, an independent publication.[1] It comes as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (The Movement of the Pakistani Taliban, TTP) and the Pakistani government signed an interim ceasefire agreement to facilitate peace talks being mediated by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban jihadi organization that seized power in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021.[2]

The article noted that the Iranian military's special forces and the Islamic Emirate have experience working together in Afghanistan to fight the Islamic State (ISIS).

Following are excerpts from the article:

"In The Formative Period Of Its Rise, [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] Was Financed Heavily By The Al-Qaeda Leadership"

"The origins of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are obscure. But this much is known: In the formative period of its rise, it was financed heavily by the Al-Qaeda leadership, which was on the run from American forces after the demise of the first Taliban regime in December 2001.

"Al-Qaeda's leadership located itself in the Pakistani tribal areas after fleeing Afghanistan. Several documents recovered from Al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan revealed that the international militant group's strategy was to keep the Pakistani military and intelligence services busy in the local conflict with tribal militant organizations.

"And the ethnically Arab leadership of Al-Qaeda wanted a free hand to operate in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas. To create a space for themselves in this region, they applied a strategy of using the TTP as a proxy against the Pakistan army. The Pakistani government was familiar with Al-Qaeda's strategy at that time. Finances and techniques – including the production of suicide bombers in local training centers – all came from Al-Qaeda operatives. This relationship continued until 2014 when TTP changed its foreign masters or foreign allies.

"By this time, the Islamic State group (ISIS) started to make its presence felt in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was more radical, had a sectarian character [targeting Shi'ite Muslims], which suited Pakistani Taliban's taste, and it was ready to facilitate TTP's armed struggle against the Pakistani state. Al-Qaeda was running out of steam by then."

"[The Afghan] Taliban Issued A Statement Condemning The Assassination Of Qassem Soleimani, Who Was Then Commander Of The Quds Force, By 'Savage American Forces,' Wadüşrning About The Consequences"

"One parallel development was taking place in the internal dynamics of the Sunni militancy in the region – the Afghan Taliban were developing robust relations with regional powers, which were nervous about the rise of more radical and ruthless Sunni extremist groups in Afghanistan. The rise of ISIS in northern, eastern, and western Afghanistan gave sleepless nights to Iranian and Russian security planners.

"Northern and eastern Afghanistan's geographical proximity to the Central Asian states, which the Russian Federation still considers to be within its security perimeter, compelled Russia's security apparatus to provide weapons, training, and intelligence assistance to the Afghan Taliban, while American troops were still operating in the war-torn country.

"Similarly, Iran's clerical regime started to show some level of acceptance of the Afghan Taliban. The Iranian military facilitated the [Afghan] Taliban through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, which has been known for its operations outside Iranian territory. It didn't come as a surprise to many that on January 5, 2020, the [Afghan] Taliban issued a statement condemning the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the then-commander of the Quds Force, by 'savage American forces,' warning about the consequences.

"This bilateral cooperation with segments of the Iranian military and Russian security apparatus put the Afghan Taliban on a collision course with ISIS inside Afghanistan – the same ISIS that was rising in strength in Afghan territory with large-scale defections in the Afghan Taliban ranks. So, not surprisingly, there came a time in 2016 when both American forces and Afghan Taliban – with the assistance of Al-Quds forces – were carrying out military operations against ISIS's organizational structures in Eastern and Northern Afghanistan..."

"In 2016... The Afghan Taliban Also Carried Out Military Operations Against The Organizational Presence Of ISIS, With The Help Of Iranian Special Forces"

"The fact that ISIS was gaining strength in the northern parts of Afghanistan, close to the Afghan borders with the Central Asian states... [was] also making Russia nervous. The fact that there was an active Islamic insurgency in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan adds to the fears among military planners in the countries north of Afghanistan. This was the time when Iran started to establish contacts with the Afghan Taliban to reinforce its military strength against the rising tide of ISIS in Afghanistan.

"In 2016, according to some reports, the Afghan Taliban also carried out military operations against the organizational presence of ISIS, with the help of Iranian special forces. After coming to power in Kabul [by seizing power on August 15, 2021], the Afghan Taliban are continuing their military operations against ISIS forces in Afghanistan. The last such operation was conducted on the outskirts of Kabul last month [in September 2021].

"The Afghan Taliban are also in competition with ISIS to win over the Pakistani Taliban. As such, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban had jointly carried out operations against NATO forces in the past. There is a difference of opinion within the Afghan Taliban on whether to support the TTP's 'jihad' against the Pakistani state. But there is no dearth of extremists in their ranks who have vehemently supported terrorist attacks against the Pakistani state in the past.

"The question that is important for Pakistan is not whether the Afghan Taliban succeeds in winning over TTP and compels the latter to dissociate itself from ISIS organizationally and ideologically. Instead, the question is whether the Taliban regime will prevent the Pakistani Taliban leadership – which is still residing in border towns on the Afghan side of the international border – from using Afghan soil to carry out terror attacks inside Pakistan.

"This question is as much of intention as it is of capacity, which, in other words, would mean whether or not the Afghan Taliban have the military and intelligence capacity to prevent attacks against Pakistan from Afghan soil. To build such capacity, the conference of regional intelligence chiefs held in Islamabad in August 2021 agreed to provide the Afghan Taliban with intelligence assessments of the situation in real-time.

"Still, it will be very unwise on the part of Pakistani security planners to bank on the Afghan Taliban for Pakistan's security in the face of a re-emergence of the threat emanating from the Pakistani Taliban. Terror and violence are in the very nature of the Taliban organizational structure and ideology. Expecting any change in the nature of the Pakistani Taliban will prove to be naiveté of highest order."


[1] (Pakistan), October 24, 2021. The original English of the article has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

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