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Iran-Afghan trade has murky future under Taliban

While the chaos that followed the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan will present challenges to trade, resulting geopolitical shifts could provide some opportunities for Tehran.
A picture obtained by AFP from the Iranian news agency Tasnim on January 31, 2021, shows Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd-R) meeting with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (2nd-L) of the Taliban in Tehran.

The Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan has raised major questions about what comes next for Iran-Afghan ties. The turmoil in Iran's eastern neighbor — one of Tehran's top export markets — will certainly have an impact on trade routes. Yet resulting geopolitical shifts could provide some opportunities for Iran.

It's no secret Iran’s relationship with the Taliban is complex. The Taliban’s emergence in the 1990s was based on a Sunni extremist ideology and a clearly anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian orientation. The two sides were on the brink of war in 1998 when the Taliban killed 11 Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan's fourth-largest city, Mazar-e-Sharif. Tehran also indirectly supported the US campaign to defeat the Taliban in 2001 and played a key role in establishing a post-Taliban national government in the country.

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