The Odd Couple: Why Iran Is Backing the Taliban

Mar 8, 2018 | 12:28 GMT

In the Surkh Rod district of Afghanistan, a man displaced by the Islamic State's Khorasan chapter makes his way home.

(Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)


  • The presence of the Islamic State-Khorasan chapter in Afghanistan will compel Iran to continue offering support to the Taliban.
  • At the same time, Tehran will maintain its outreach to the Afghan government because of their cooperation on the Chabahar port project.
  • Afghanistan's instability will ensure Iran's continued involvement in the country, complicating the United States' attempts to wind down its long-running war there.

In the conflict in Afghanistan, there are few stranger bedfellows than Iran and the Taliban. The former is the spiritual hub of Shiite Islam, while the latter is a vociferously anti-Shiite Sunni fundamentalist movement. Changing circumstances, however, have brought the onetime foes into a kind of partnership. Whatever its ideological differences with the insurgent outfit, Tehran has every reason to maintain its tactical partnership with the Taliban -- while also keeping its ties to the Afghan government....

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