Iran informed Taliban and Afghan government leaders on Wednesday that it was ready to assist in ending the situation in Afghanistan, encouraging Afghans and politicians to make “tough decisions” about the country’s future.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who hosted a meeting of Afghan government representatives and a high-level Taliban political committee, declared that “committing to political solutions is the best alternative.”
Zarif was quoted by Iranian state media as saying, “Iran is willing to aid the negotiation process between the existing factions in Afghanistan to settle the present problems and crises in that country.”
For decades, Shi’ite Muslim Iran has been an opponent of the hardline Sunni Muslim Taliban, but in recent years, it has met with Taliban officials openly.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Qatar have so far failed to yield results.
Iran has previously been accused by the US of providing clandestine backing to Taliban fighters fighting against US forces. Tehran has disputed it, claiming that it favors an inclusive Afghan administration that includes all ethnic groups and sects.
The deputy head of the Taliban’s political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, and Afghan government representatives attended the Tehran conference, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA.
“The United States has failed in Afghanistan … and its presence in the country for more than two decades has caused major damage in Afghanistan,” said Zarif. “Today, the people and political leaders of Afghanistan must make difficult decisions for the future of their country”.
On July 3, U.S. forces vacated their Bagram Air Base, in effect bringing an end to the longest war in U.S. history. The move was part of an understanding with the Taliban, against whom the United States has fought since ousting them from power after the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
The departure took place as the Taliban ramps up its offensive around the country and makes rapid territorial gains.