Exposing the Iran-Backed Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

Taliban fighters stand guard at an entrance gate outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul on August 17.
JAVED TANVEER/AFP via Getty Images

Exposing the Iran-Backed Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

Iran not only planned for the eventual exit of the United States from Afghanistan; it has worked with the Taliban for almost a decade to bring it about.

When Kabul fell to the Taliban, the prevailing opinion in the media was Iran feared what would come next. “Taliban Surge Will Force Iran to Forge a New Defense Strategy,” reported Haaretz on August 13. “Iran Braces for Life Next Door to the Taliban Once Again,” Bloomberg headlined on August 19. Germany’s Deutsche Welle wrote, “Afghanistan: Taliban Offensive Puts Iran in a Bind.” These three headlines were representative of the broad consensus that while Iran might be happy America is gone from Afghanistan, it was terrified of the Taliban.

That narrative is false.

The Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan will not counter Iranian hegemony in the Middle East. In fact, Iran not only planned for the eventual exit of the United States from Afghanistan, but also worked with the Taliban for almost a decade to bring it about. The forces of radical Islam, led by Iran, are set to receive a massive boost, economically, militarily and ideologically, from the Taliban takeover.

Foreign Policys Shelly Kittleson was the only mainstream reporter to get it right. Writing from Kandahar, Afghanistan, Kittleson documented several firsthand accounts of Iranian intervention inside Afghanistan that welcomed, encouraged, financed and fought alongside the Taliban to push out the U.S.

“Several sources I spoke to on the ground across the country during a monthlong reporting trip between July and August this year said that Iran has played a major role in the conflict,” wrote Kittleson. “While I was reporting from Kandahar, multiple security officials told me that Iranian weapons had been found in the hands of killed Taliban fighters in the area.”

She noted that when critical Iran-Afghanistan border crossings fell to the Taliban in early July, Iranian officials welcomed the terrorists with open arms. Another act of Iranian kindness toward the Taliban, that was curiously timed and underreported, was a high-level visit by the Taliban to Tehran in July in the middle of the Taliban’s lightning offensive across Afghanistan.

Yet these are only recent examples of a brotherly relationship between the former enemies.

A search through open-source reporting reveals that Iran has been allied with the Taliban for almost a decade.

In 2013, representatives of the Taliban participated in a conference on Islam in Tehran. During the visit, footage captured Taliban officials embracing Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Wall Street Journal reported that by the end of 2013, Afghan security officials had evidence that Iran was training Taliban fighters inside its borders.

By 2015, the Taliban had its own footprint inside Iran. It had established four Taliban training bases in the Iranian cities of Tehran, Mashhad and Zehedan and in the province of Kerman. Initially, “Iran was supporting the Taliban financially,” a senior Afghan official told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. “But now they are training and equipping them too.”

That same 2015 article interviewed a Taliban commander from central Afghanistan whose salary was paid by Iran, not the Taliban. “Iran supplies us with whatever we need,” he said. In 2015, those supplies included 82-mm mortars, light machine-guns, AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and materials for making roadside bombs.

This increase of support for the Taliban was the direct result of the work of now-deceased Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Suleimani. The Middle East Eye reported that Suleimani visited Afghanistan in 2015; several deals were made with the Taliban whereby Iran promised to “provide unlimited financial and technical support” to the group. The Middle East Eye also reported that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (irgc) officers were sent to Afghanistan to train and advise Taliban fighters. Iran provided safe haven for Taliban leadership as part of the agreements as well.

In 2016, Afghan officials in western Farah province announced that members of Iran’s irgc were embedded in the ranks of the Taliban. Farah Provincial Council head Jamila Amini told Radio France International at the time that 25 members of the Taliban, killed in a December 2016 battle, were actually proven members of the irgc.

A year later, the New York Times published an investigative piece titled “In Afghanistan, U.S. Exits, and Iran Comes In.” The report recaps a three-week “Taliban” siege of the city of Farah, where only a massive bombardment by the U.S. could rescue the Afghan troops. “[O]nly when the smoke cleared did Afghan security officials realize who was behind the lightning strike: Iran,” wrote the New York Times (emphasis added throughout).

Among the deceased were four senior Iranian commandos, whose funerals took place in Iran. Those wounded were sent to Iran for recovery.

Reporting on the gravity of this Iran-led attack, the New York Times wrote in 2017:

The assault, coordinated with attacks on several other cities, was part of the Taliban’s most ambitious attempt since 2001 to retake power. But it was also a piece of an accelerating Iranian campaign to step into a vacuum left by departing American forces—Iran’s biggest push into Afghanistan in decades.

In 2018, several stories appeared in the mainstream media. Again, they further showcased Iran’s role in the Taliban offensive. “Iran Funding Taliban to Affect U.S. Military Presence in Afghanistan, Say Police and Lawmakers,” headlined Arab News on May 27, 2018.

A month later, on July 2, the Times of London featured a report written from Kabul by Anthony Loyd titled “Taliban’s Best Fighters Being Trained by Iran.” The first two paragraphs are shocking considering the Taliban’s takeover, just three years after this article appeared:

Hundreds of Taliban fighters are receiving advanced training from special forces at military academies in Iran as part of a significant escalation of support for the insurgents, Taliban and Afghan officials have told the Times.

The scale, quality and length of the training is unprecedented and marks not only a shift in the proxy conflict between the U.S. and Iran inside Afghanistan, but also a potential change in Iran’s ability and will to affect the outcome of the Afghan war.

Shortly before the Times piece, then United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first American official to blow the cover off Iran’s support for the Taliban. He stated, “Iran’s support to the Taliban in the form of weapons and funding leads to further violence and hinders peace and stability for the Afghan people.”

Through 2019, this funding also came in the form of bounties that were paid by Iran to the Taliban to target coalition forces in Afghanistan. According to a Pentagon briefing seen by cnn, the Haqqani Network (which comprises part of the Taliban) was paid by Iran for at least six attacks against the United States or coalition forces in 2019. Fast-forward three years and the Haqqani Network is the specific segment of the Taliban that is currently in charge of the security of Kabul. And so, in a wicked irony, the same terrorists Iran paid to attack U.S. forces in 2019 are now supposedly working with the U.S. to safeguard American citizens as they transit to the Kabul airport.

On Dec. 11, 2019, the Haqqani Network executed a well-planned attack on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan involving 10 of its members and an explosives-laden vehicle. U.S. air strikes were required to repel the attack, in which two civilians were killed and 70 others were injured, including four American personnel.

This highly underreported event took place less than a month before U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Gen. Qassem Suleimani. The justification for his assassination was a strike that had killed a United States contractor in Iraq in late December. However, U.S. government officials told cnn that Suleimani’s push into Afghanistan was also part of the justification for his assassination.

Nevertheless, the death of Suleimani on Jan. 2, 2020, did not slow Iran’s support for the Taliban. Instead, Suleimani’s number two, Ismail Qaani, took over as the head of the Quds Force. His domain of expertise was Afghanistan.

“Even though Suleimani’s death has affected Iranian subversive activities across the greater Middle East, its Afghanistan portfolio might actually get a boost because the man who managed it as Suleimani’s deputy is now his successor,” wrote Javid Ahmad and Husain Haqqani (no relation to the Taliban group) for the Hill on Feb. 6, 2020, in “What Does Suleimani’s Death Mean for Afghanistan?”

“General Ismail Qaani, whose adventures in Afghanistan trace back to the 1980s, has been the principal architect behind cultivating and directing Afghan armed proxies and jihadist cells,” they continued. “It has cost Tehran millions of dollars to operate its Afghan proxies, including the Taliban factions ….”

Soon after Qaani’s takeover, sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles, likely from Iran, started to appear on the Afghan battlefield.

According to reporting in the New York Times in July 2020, two coalition Black Hawk helicopters were hit by anti-tank missiles. The New York Times wrote:

American and Afghan officials claim the weapons used in both strikes were most likely supplied by Iran, but they offered no evidence to support the assertion. The accusation would be alarming if true, as the influx of anti-tank guided missiles could not only give the Taliban a tactical advantage over the Afghan military but also suggest Tehran was trying to undermine the American mission as it is poised to wind down.

One year on from this article and the New York Times’ reporting seems almost prophetic.

Evidence of the collapse of the Afghan military in the face of the abandonment of the U.S. military has been well reported. But as witnessed in the evidence provided here, Iran’s connection to the current Taliban’s offensive has been completely ignored.

By at least 2015, Iran had an active role in equipping, funding and training the Taliban, as Tehran worked to remove the United States from Afghanistan. America’s defeat in Afghanistan is not just the work of the Taliban; it is a surrender to radical Islamic forces, led by Iran.

In the November 2003 issue of the Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry prophesied that America’s war on terrorism would be a failure. The Bible forecast this would be the case, but it was also evident in the United States’ strategy. It is worth reading the entire article: “Why We Cannot Win the War Against Terrorism.” But consider a few resounding statements by Mr. Flurry from almost 20 years ago:

We lack the will to win a bloody, protracted war.

The fruits and evidence of the past two decades overwhelmingly prove where the king of state-sponsored terrorism is! The whole world can see that. However, the solution to terrorism lies in doing something about it! We must confront the source. The terrorist movement flows from Iran. …

We fear facing the origin of state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East. We can never win the war against terrorism until we comprehend and deal with this reality. We can’t negotiate a victory. Only superior power, and the will to use it, can win. That is the only way to stop state-sponsored terrorism. …

We are fighting the terrorist war the way state-sponsored terrorists want to fight it—which means we can never win. They understand that they will win fighting the war their way. That is why they are waging this war of terror! Terrorist warfare would be a failure if we had the will to use our power against state-sponsored terrorism.

Nations must be held accountable and responsible for sponsoring terrorism. How dare any nation finance or support terrorism in another nation! …

It is an act of war to finance terrorists! The supporters of terrorism are more guilty than the terrorists. They make it all possible.

If America and Britain held the terrorist-supporting nations accountable, we would drain the terrorist swamp. They should be given one clear warning to stop. If they don’t, then strong action should be taken.

If the Iranian leadership were eliminated, the whole course of Mideast history would change radically for the better, because it is the king. Sadly, Bible prophecy reveals that will not happen.

And indeed, it hasn’t happened.

America has been unable to win in Iraq because it refused to go after the head of the terrorist snake: Iran. America has now been defeated in Afghanistan for the same reason. The Bible prophesies that Iran is going to lead radical Islam, not the Taliban, and not Islamic State. Whether it be from Iran working with the Taliban, or Iran being called in to help with the rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, there is no doubt Iran will emerge far stronger from the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. This is exactly what the Trumpet forecast two decades ago.

At the very outset of America’s deployment, we made this forecast: “[W]e can see unequivocally that the terrorist snake will survive America’s aggression—head intact, and stronger than ever. … Make no mistake about it: Iran is the head of the snake.” Has that happened? Make no mistake, America’s defeat in Afghanistan will empower radical Islam led by its king - Iran!

Prophesying defeat is a gloomy forecast to make on the face of it. However, there is also a triumphant hope that exists in knowing those forecasts were made based on the Bible.

These prophesied defeats reveal that there is still a plan being worked out here below. And if these prophecies were fulfilled, the other gloriously joyful prophecies will be fulfilled as well. To learn the only hope in Afghanistan’s fall to the Iran-backed Taliban, and where your focus should be, please read Joel Hilliker’s article from last week, “Prophecy Is Fulfilled in Afghanistan.”