Iran and Russia play double-game in Afghanistan, protecting their influence

With the Taliban yet to convince Tehran and Moscow its a reliable ally, groups like the National Resistance Front remain politically relevant.

It was recently Tehran's turn to host peace talks between Afghanistan’s political leaders following unsuccessful efforts in Doha, Moscow and Islamabad to resolve decades of internal conflict.

This month the Taliban’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and other officials met delegates of the Afghan resistance, including Ahmad Shah Massoud and Ismail Khan, who lives in Iran, while on a trip to the Iranian capital.

The meeting was arranged by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran, according to a former Afghan government official and Amin Karim, a senior member of Hezb-i Islami, both of whom knew details of the talks and shared them with TRT World.

The Iranians had to pressure Massoud (the son of the late legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, also known as the Lion of Panjshir) and the Taliban into attending the meeting, according to Karim, insisting that Muttaqi meet the NRF delegates as a condition for his official visit to Tehran.

Massoud is the leader of the National Resistance Front (NRF), an armed movement associated primarily with Afghanistan’s Tajik ethnic minority. After the August 15 takeover, Massoud’s fighters held out against the Taliban from their base in the Panjshir Valley.

But they eventually lost control of the valley on September 6 and Massoud reportedly fled to Tajikistan, followed soon after by Amrullah Saleh, the former vice-president who declared himself acting president after Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan in August.

However, Massoud continues to visit Panjshir as his fighters still control about 60-65 percent of the area, according to Ali Nazari, head of foreign relations for the NRF. The resistance has now spread to several other provinces, Nazari told TRT World.