Iran is accused of covertly aiding the Taliban, at a time when uncertainty reigns over President-elect Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy.

“(The) narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State,” top US commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson said recently, denouncing the “malign influence” of external powers.  “This public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents.  “Shifting to Iran, you have a similar situation. There have been linkages between the Iranians and the Taliban.”

In recent months Taliban representatives have held several meetings with Russian officials in Tajikistan and Moscow, according to sources at Yahoo News. 

“No country should be in touch with destructive groups who are the enemies of Afghanistan. This shows disrespect towards the victims of war,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Siddiqi told AFP.  “We ask Russia and Iran to work with Afghans to defeat terrorism.”

“Islamic State may not have a deep presence in Afghanistan, but it has developed a profile there and its overall brand inspires great fear,” Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, told AFP.  ”We can’t rule out the possibility that Russia and Iran are trying to hedge against the future possibility of a stronger Islamic State in Afghanistan by expanding their ties to the Taliban.”

Afghanistan has served as a playground for nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, who endorses Washington’s war on terrorism, while providing sanctuary to the Taliban.  Countries jockeying for supremacy in Afghanistan may cause more chaos with the prospect of Trump’s unpredictable foreign policy, analysts say.

Many in Tehran fear that a a White House under Trump will try to scrap the nuclear deal with world powers, and push them to retaliate by deepening ties with the Taliban.  “Foreign powers fighting for their own self interest does not bode well for Afghanistan,” said Saeedi. “That only means more violence and bloodshed in the country.”