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Taliban reaches out to rival Ismail Khan–appoints his nephew as ambassador to Iran

Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Muttaqi met his arc rival Ismail Khan.

The Taliban in Afghanistan has appointed its first ambassador. Abdul Qayeum Sulymani, the nephew of the former strongman of Herat Ismail Khan, is the new Afghan ambassador in Tehran.

Taliban made the announcement following a meeting between the Foreign Minister of Taliban regime Amir Khan Muttaqi and the former governor, the “Lion of Herat” Ismail Khan in Tehran on Sunday. The meeting was mediated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on whose invitation, Muttaqi reached Tehran on Saturday.

According to the state backed Iranian TV channel, Iran International, the Taliban foreign minister visiting Iran will have a meeting with opposition figures Ahmad Masood, leader of National Resistance Front (NDF) and the former Herat governor Ismail Khan.

“Iran has close ties with the anti-Taliban figures and also cordial relations with the Taliban, whose victory in August was seen by Tehran as a defeat for the United States,” said the channel.

Taliban FM Visiting Iran Will Meet Opposition Figures – Sources

While there is no confirmation available about Masood and Muttaqi meeting, the sources told the channel that Masood had arrived in Tehran on Saturday from Mashhad, a religious city of Iran. Interestingly, Ismail Khan has been living in the same city since the fall of Herat to the Taliban last year. Ismail Khan was captured, but later he was allowed to go to Iran by the Taliban.  According to sources, Ismail Khan, who is a senior commander, who also fought against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, surrendered and handed over Herat as part of an agreement with the Taliban in August last year when the militant group entered the border city. In return, the Taliban announced amnesty for Khan and its soldiers.

Also read:  Taliban capture Ismail Khan, the Lion of Herat, as city falls

According to Iran International, Ahmad Masood is also currently in Mashhad to visit his family.

“A number of other people met with the Taliban foreign minister, including Ismail Khan and former Badghis governor Hisamuddin Shams, who is also in Iran,” said the channel quoting various sources.

“It was the Taliban foreign minister Amir khan Muttaqi who had offered peace and talks to Ismail Khan and Ahmad Masood, so that the anti-Taliban resistance forces could stop fighting the Taliban,” said one source, adding the meeting was arranged on his behest and appointment of Abdul Qayeum Sulymani, nephew of Ismail Khan the ambassador is a first step as a confidence building between the two.

Meanwhile, Sibgatullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Afghan National Resistance Front, denied the report and said “no meeting of Masood with a Taliban representative was planned. But if the news comes true, it will be the first talks between the new Taliban regime and the National Resistance Front led by Ahmad Masood.”

In a significant development in the Afghan theatre, Muttaqi first met his Iranian counterpart on "issues of bilateral relations, trade, petroleum products, transit and security issues."

According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the two sides called Afghanistan "a link between Central Asia and South Asia." Interestingly, on the same day, the Iranian Foreign Minister, after a telephone talk with the Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, announced Iran's cooperation in transferring Indian humanitarian aid, such as wheat and medicine, to Afghanistan.