Iran Hands Over Afghan Embassy in Tehran to Taliban

A Taliban fighter is seen at the Taliban flag-raising ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 31, 2022. [File, Standard]

Iran has handed the Afghan embassy in Tehran over to the Taliban, becoming the latest country to accept Taliban-appointed diplomats without recognizing their 18-month-old government in Kabul.

The Taliban foreign ministry said Monday that it had dispatched a seven-member team of "experienced diplomats, led by a newly appointed charge d'affaires" to the Iranian capital to formally assume the charge of Afghanistan's diplomatic mission there.

The statement described the development as an "important and cooperative step" in bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Iran.

"We believe that with the new appointments, we would witness transparency in the affairs of the embassy as well as expanded relations in various fields between the two Muslim and brotherly countries," Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said.

Iran joins several neighboring and regional countries to have allowed the Taliban to appoint staff to and manage Afghan diplomatic missions in their respective territories. They include Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, Balkhi claimed in written comments to VOA.

He said his ministry had already introduced new diplomats to missions in these countries. Balkhi, identified Tajikistan as the only neighbor of Afghanistan where they have not appointed new diplomats, saying the head of the embassy there "is not cooperative."

Analysts said the growing threat of terrorism posed by Islamic State's Afghan affiliate, known as Islamic State Khorasan Province, had apparently prompted Tehran to work closely with the Taliban to keep the terrorist group from the Iranian border.

Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan official, and political commentator noted that millions of Afghans had taken refuge in Iran after fleeing the Soviet occupation of their country in the 1980s and subsequent conflicts that engulfed Afghanistan.

"Currently thousands of Afghans cross the border daily to Iran from Afghanistan to migrate to Turkey and Europe, human trafficking is rife," Farhadi said. "Iran needs good relations with the Taliban... and has turned over the embassy to Taliban representatives as a practical matter to handle day-to-day affairs, without recognizing the [Kabul] regime," he added.

An Afghan opposition armed group, operating out of Tajikistan, slammed the Iranian government for allowing the Taliban to run the embassy in Tehran.

"The National Resistance Front (NRF) expresses its regret over the taking over of Afghanistan's prestigious diplomatic mission by a criminal group," said the group in a statement.

Iran also maintains good ties with the NRF leadership and other prominent Afghans who have taken refuge in the country and elsewhere after fleeing the Taliban takeover.

"The political presence of the Taliban in Iran... is perilous, especially for the millions of refugees who have sought protection in Iran from the fear, threats, and pressure," the NRF asserted.

Dozens of Afghanistan's diplomatic missions around the world are open for business but in most cases, the host nations have either refused to hand them over to the Taliban, or Afghan diplomats working there are reportedly unwilling to work with the new Kabul administration.

The international community has not recognized the Taliban since they stormed back to power in August 2021 as the U.S.-led Western troops exited the country after almost 20 years of war.

Foreign governments demand the Taliban keep their promises to respect human rights, give women access to education and work, cut ties with terrorist groups, and form an inclusive government representing all groups in Afghanistan.