Iranian authorities shuttered a news website after it claimed that the Taliban’s previous emir was inside Iran for two months and strategized with officials to counter the Islamic State.
Mullah Mansour, the Taliban’s previous emir, was killed in a US drone strike in Baluchistan, Pakistan, on May 21. The US military and the CIA tracked Mansour as he left Iran, where he purportedly was visiting with his family.
Iranian officials shut down the Jahan News website, which is affiliated with a hardline former parliamentarian. According to Iranian news reports, the reason for the outlet’s suspension, which occurred on June 15, was the publication of two articles, one of which discussed Mansour’s dealings with Iran.
On June 5, Jahan News published an article that claimed that Mansour stayed in Iran for two months and left the country one week prior to his death. The article claimed that he had “discussions with various bodies,” likely a reference to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The talks centered around the Taliban’s commitment “to prevent DAISH,” or the Islamic State, from expanding, “especially in Afghanistan’s northeastern border and the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.”
“Beneficial negotiations took place with Iranian officials,” Jahan News noted.
Jahan News is not the first news service to report that the Taliban and Iran strategized to deal with the expansion of the Islamic State in Afghansitan. On May 26, Foreign Policy quoted Western officials who claimed that the Taliban and Iran had agreed to set up buffer zones by Iran’s border. Additionally, Iran agreed to supply the Taliban with weapons.
Iranian officials have not commented on reports that it has worked with the Taliban to oppose the Islamic State. But they have denied that Mansour was inside Iran.
“Islamic Republic officials reject that such an individual entered Pakistan from Iran on such a date,” a foreign ministry spokesman said on May 23 while responding to questions on Akhtar’s presence in Iran.
However the Taliban admitted that Mansour was indeed in Iran. Zabihullah Mujahid, one of the Taliban’s top two spokesmen, admitted Mansour entered Iran due to “ongoing battle obligations” and said he made multiple “unofficial trips,” according to Dawn.
“He held meetings with Afghan businessmen and Islamic nations in the UAE to discuss our Afghan holy war and raise funds for Taliban operations in Western-occupied Afghanistan,” Mujahid said.
While the Taliban and Iran are often characterized as bitter enemies, the two have worked together to further their interests in the region for decades. Shortly after 9/11, Taliban officials met with Iranian representatives to discuss an offer to provide arms and other support for the Taliban as well as allow “Arabs,” or members of al Qaeda, to enter the country after the US invasion of Afghanistan.
The US government, including the Treasury and State departments, have repeatedly noted Iran’s dealings with the Taliban. Treasury noted in May 2010 that the Ansar Corps, an IRGC command, supports the Taliban, while two commanders provide “financial and material support to the Taliban.” Other designations and government reports detail Iran’s ongoing support for the Taliban.
For more information on the Iran-Taliban relationship, see LWJ report, Analysis: Iran has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since late 2001.