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In first cross border skirmish, Taliban forces clash with the Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). (File Photo)

On Wednesday, for more than 12 hours, a battle between Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps  (IRGC) and Taliban fighters raged  at the Afghan-Iran border near the Kang district of Nimruz province of Afghanistan. An unspecified number of combatants died and  several Iranian border posts were apparently killed by the Taliban amid the heavy artillery shelling.

According to an Iranian news agency Tasnim News, the clashes erupted after the Taliban fighters opened fire on Iranian farmers who had crossed the border wall between the two countries .

Unverified videos posted by Afghanistan's Aamaj news agency and others  showed Iranian border guards and Taliban fighters exchanging fire along a border wall near the Afghan province of Nimroz.

Gunfire can be heard while one shows Iranian forces firing artillery shells in response to Taliban fire.

Later both Iran and the Taliban played down the incident. The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, confirming the clash, said that it was just a local dispute due to a misunderstanding and the situation is under control. Interestingly, Tasnim news reported, quoting the Mohammad Marashi, deputy security for the governors of Sistan and Baluchestan that clashes were instigated by the Taliban forces but situations were brought under control after the meeting between the two sides. No further details were given by either side.

According to local sources, there have been tensions along the border, which has active smuggling routes and thousands of refugees. The relations between Iran and the Taliban have not been good throughout history. The Sunni, fundamentalist Taliban was Shia Iran’s adversary and the two sides nearly went to war in 1998 after the Taliban murdered a number of Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e-Sharif.

But today, Iran has recognized that the Taliban inexorably is a part of realities on the ground.  Its aim is to prevent another destabilizing exodus across the 900-kilometer frontier, contain the threat posed by a new generation of militants belonging to Islamic State, and to protect Tehran’s growing trade with Afghanistan as its economy remains strangled by American sanctions. But there was skepticism in Iran about the Taliban regime.

Former leaders of the Islamic Republic have drawn upon past tensions to warn their nation and neighbouring countries that the Taliban are “going to be a serious threat to all of them.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outspoken sixth president of Iran from 2005 to 2013, has led the charge, telling all who will listen: “India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China and regional countries will face the consequences of the re-emergence of Taliban.”

Ahmadinejad Says Taliban Took Afghanistan In US-Led Satanic Plot

Iran has not officially recognised the Taliban yet. Iran has  repeatedly said the recognition would hinge on the formation of an “inclusive” government in Afghanistan.

Thousands of Afghan Shiites who fled Taliban persecution in the 1990s still live in Iran, while the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that in 2019, 90% of world opium, 72% of the world's morphine and 20% of the world's heroin were seized by Iran.

“The hope is that the experience of the Taliban 20 years ago would be taken seriously and some of the mistakes they made won’t be repeated,” Foad Izadi, a professor at the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran told the Bloomberg, “If not, then it’s going to be a difficult situation.”  He further adds that Iran has a working relationship with the Taliban. “It’s not because they particularly like them.”

Also Read:  How beheading of a wanted terrorist brought Taliban and Iran closer