NEW DELHI: Iran fired the first salvo against Pakistan’s overt involvement in Afghanistan’s internal matters when it questioned reports of Pakistani military presence in the Panjshir valley, where Taliban said it has overcome resistance to its rule, on Monday.
Iran became the first country to protest against the Taliban blockading the valley north of Kabul, calling for negotiations rather than military action.
“Last night’s attacks are condemned in the strongest terms…and the foreign interference …. must be investigated,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh told journalists on Monday. “We are investigating it.”
The Taliban said they have captured the Panjshir valley, where the resistance is being led by Ahmad Massoud, and former vice president Amrullah Saleh. Both sides maintained they retained control of the valley. But the Taliban are being helped by Pakistan, baring what has been one of the world’s worst kept secret, according to reports.
Iran has openly objected to Pakistan virtually running the show in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Pakistan’s ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed had landed in Kabul to oversee government formation and to iron out disputes besides ensuring key roles for allies like the Haqqani network.
Though Iran has been much more welcoming of the Taliban lately, Monday’s statement indicates it may not be ready to give up its influence over the Taliban resistance either, comprising as it is of mainly of Tajiks and some other minority groups.
India has maintained silence in the past few days on the ongoing developments in Afghanistan. However, government sources maintained they were watching events closely and would judge them based on the actions on the ground.
This was also the takeaway after top-level officials from US and India met in Washington DC over the past couple of days. The US is hurting after a particularly ill-executed withdrawal from Afghanistan that has geopolitical consequences. This may result in a global distancing from the Afghan problem, with many western powers willing to leave it to Pakistan. According to senior government sources, this could mean a return to 20 years ago when Pakistan made itself a frontline state and will look to stabilise Afghanistan in a way that the ruling dispensation is better disposed towards Islamabad rather than New Delhi.
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