September 29, 2023

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Iran-Taliban border clashes can be prevented

TEHRAN – The unfamiliarity of the Taliban forces with the nuances of border issues has once again caused completely preventable clashes on the border with Iran, which has so far exercised restraint to contain the situation.

On Sunday, Afghan news media broke the news that clashes took place between the border guards of Iran and the Taliban in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan. 

Iran confirmed the news and moved quickly to prevent the issue from spiraling out of control.

Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Seyed Majid Mir-Ahmadi said the clashes erupted in the Hirmand region when a small group of Taliban border guards ignored border laws and took provocative measures in the Zahak region.  The Taliban forces opened fire on Iranian border guards after entering an area they were not authorized to, which prompted the Iranian side to respond in kind. The clashes lasted for an hour and resulted in the killing of a Taliban member and the injury of another one. 

The episode came to an end thanks to Iran’s prudence and diplomatic efforts. Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan, who has been busy over the last year coordinating Iran’s Afghanistan policy, moved to calm the situation. 

He said a meeting was held with Taliban defense officials in the wake of the clashes and it resulted in a decision to form a joint committee between Tehran and Kabul to address border issues and prevent the recurrence of border clashes. 

The Iranian envoy said the Taliban defense officials instructed their border guards to avoid frictions with their Iranian counterparts after the meeting. 

The clashes took place because the Taliban border guards were unfamiliar with the complexities of the porous Iran-Afghanistan borders, according to Iranian officials. Iran’s state news agency IRNA said the Taliban guards were conducting patrols inside Iranian territories. 

This may explain Iran’s calm approach and its measured response to Taliban border infractions despite the fact that Sunday’s clashes were not the first in their kind. Over the last year, several similar clashes took place and in all of them Iran sought to soothe tensions.

That’s because Iran believes that Taliban forces are yet to get familiar with border issues. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani referred to this on Monday. 

“Our understanding of the events of the past two days on the common border with Afghanistan is that these events seem to be caused by the lack of proper attention and knowledge of the Afghan border guards about the common border lines and the known border lines of the two countries,” Kanaani said.

 “Last year, we created a security wall to deal with traffickers and drug trafficking. In some of these areas, it seems that the Afghan border guards are not aware of the border situation and do not have accurate knowledge of border areas and lines. And some of their actions and movements cause misunderstandings and sometimes border clashes,” he added. 

The spokesman noted, “Iran’s border guard forces closely monitor the border movements along the borders of the region. We expect the authorities of Afghanistan to train their border guard forces more carefully. And they should be familiar with the border lines and know their duties so that we do not witness the repetition of such incidents.” 

Therefore, border misunderstandings can certainly be cleared up through a Taliban decision to sufficiently train Afghan border guards on border issues. Iran is not seeking to escalate tensions with Afghanistan. Quite on the contrary, it seeks better relations with the war-torn country. 

But there are voices in Iran calling for a tougher stance on the Taliban in case border clashes continue. Shahriyar Heidari, an Iranian lawmaker, told ILNA that now Iran is not taking decisive action against the Taliban because it blames border clashes on the Taliban’s unawareness of border laws but if the Taliban continue to violate these laws, they will receive a decisive response.  

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