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Taliban releases Iran border guard, moves into Afghanistan's Embassy in Tehran

Iran has had a complicated relationship with the Taliban since the group resumed control over Afghanistan.
Undated photo of Afghanistan Embassy in Tehran.

An Iranian border guard was released by the Taliban on Monday after being detained on the Afghanistan-Iran border. 

The guard was searching a vehicle for contraband on the Iran-Afghanistan border when the driver fled and drove the vehicle into Afghan territory while the guard was still inside. Afghan border forces detained the guard along with the other vehicle occupants but then released the guard, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. 

Meanwhile, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi tweeted on Monday that they dispatched a new chargé d'affaires and diplomats to the Afghan Embassy in Tehran. 

The Associated Press reported that Taliban officials “gained control” of the embassy over the weekend. The embassy was previously staffed by officials from the US-backed Afghan government in exile, according to The Associated Press.

The Afghan opposition group National Resistance Front condemned Iran for handing over the embassy to the Taliban, the pro-opposition Iran International news outlet reported. 

Why it matters: Iran’s relations with the Taliban are complex. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called the Taliban victory over US forces in 2021 an “opportunity to restore life, security and lasting peace,” and the Islamic Republic has engaged with the Taliban government since then. 

Last April, the Iranian government said some Taliban officials were present at the Afghan Embassy in Tehran, though Iranian officials said this did not amount to formal recognition, Al-Monitor reported at the time. Iran, like the international community, has yet to officially recognize the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. 

An August 2022 report from the US Institute of Peace noted that Iran lost influence in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, but Iranian officials determined it was better to engage with their new neighbor. 

“With the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Iran will most likely see a diminishment of its political, economic and cultural influence in the country. Shia Iran is uncomfortable with the prospect of a Sunni extremist group monopolizing and consolidating power on its doorstep,” read the report. “For now, however, Iranian leaders have decided to engage with the Taliban while denying the group formal recognition.”

Border tensions with Iran and the Taliban are not new. There were several clashes along the Afghanistan-Iran border last year. 

Know more: Afghanistan’s Hazara Shiite minority community is growing increasingly fearful under Taliban rule, Al-Monitor contributor Shelly Kittleson reported from Kabul in January.

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