Pompeo warns Iran not to be ‘spoiler’ in Afghanistan

Updated February 29, 2020

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US secretary of state confirms that a one-week partial truce was holding with the Taliban. — AFP/File
US secretary of state confirms that a one-week partial truce was holding with the Taliban. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday warned Iran not to scuttle an upcoming agreement with the Taliban, accusing the US adversary of seeking to be a “spoiler”.

Pompeo confirmed that a one-week partial truce was holding with the Taliban, who are scheduled to sign the landmark accord with the United States in Qatar on Saturday.

“There is a history of Iran engaging in activity inside of Afghanistan to act as a spoiler,” Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We’ve seen just these last six days a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan and we are watching closely to see if the Islamic Republic of Iran begins to take even more active measure that undermine our efforts at peace and reconciliation,” he said.

He warned that Iran could increase risks for US troops, whose numbers are expected to be sharply scaled down under the Doha agreement.

Iran has been historically opposed to the Taliban. Iran was part of a coalition that backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and in 1998 amassed troops near the Afghan border after a Taliban assault on Iran’s consulate in Herat.

But Iran has increasingly been involved in proxy conflicts with the United States elsewhere, notably in Iraq.

Iran has been mostly cautious in its recent comments on Afghanistan.

Partial truce

A partial truce between the Taliban, US and Afghan troops held for a seventh day Friday, with only minor attacks reported on the eve of a deal to withdraw American troops.

The accord would see thousands of American troops quit Afghanistan after more than 18 years, in return for various security commitments from the Taliban and a pledge to hold talks with the government in Kabul.

Afghan officials will be conspicuously absent from Saturday’s signing ceremony in Doha, but a government delegation will be there to make “initial contacts” with the insurgents. While the ongoing truce does not amount to a full ceasefire, the number of Taliban attacks has fallen dramatically, with only isolated attacks in rural areas breaking the calm.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2020