A Taliban-Led Afghanistan Isn’t the Neighbor Iran Bargained For

A Taliban-Led Afghanistan Isn’t the Neighbor Iran Bargained For
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, fourth left, listens to the then-acting foreign minister in Afghanistan’s Taliban-run Cabinet, Amir Khan Muttaqi, third right, during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 9, 2022 (Iranian Foreign Ministry photo via AP Images).

For the two decades following the attacks of 9/11, Iran blamed much of Afghanistan’s miseries on the military intervention there by the United States and its allies, which Tehran characterized as a war of imperial conquest. But two years after the U.S. withdrawal that Tehran had long demanded, and with the Taliban now firmly in power in Kabul, Iran finds itself facing a unique set of challenges emanating from Afghanistan. 

These include a battle over cross-border water supplies that has erupted into violence and continued drug-trafficking that is fueling Iran’s intractable opioid epidemic. What’s more, Tehran faces these challenges while exercising far less influence in Kabul than it did during the days of NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan.

Like Afghanistan’s other neighbors and the international community, Iran has become frustrated by efforts to cajole a Taliban administration that has proved remarkably resilient to any international pressure. In fact, the Taliban appear to have more leverage over Tehran than the other way around.

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