Iran, Taliban officials say US pushing war in Afghanistan

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian and Taliban officials met in Tehran on Wednesday and accused the U.S. of provoking the continuation of war in Afghanistan, Iranian State TV reported.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told visiting Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar that the U.S. seeks to continue the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

“The U.S. strategy supports the continuation of war and bloodshed among various Afghan groups in the political spectrum,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying. He said the U.S. tries to blame insecurity and instability in the country on individual Afghan groups.

U.S. Army Capt. Bradley D. Rager, assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division, helps secure the helicopter landing zone as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter prepares to land at an Afghan military base Dec. 14, 2019, in southeastern Afghanistan. (Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea/Army)

There was no immediate comment from the U.S., which signed a peace agreement with the Taliban last February and met its goal this month of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500.

Taliban representatives and the Afghan government earlier this month resumed peace talks in Qatar, the Gulf Arab state where the insurgents maintain an office. The stop-and-go talks are aimed at ending decades of conflict. But frustration and fear have grown over a recent spike in violence, and both sides blame one another.

Baradar, who arrived Monday with a Taliban delegation, criticized the U.S. for allegedly breaking its commitments to the February deal. He did not elaborate.

“We do not trust the U.S. and will fight any group that is a mercenary for the U.S.,” he said.

U.S. forces conducted a strike against armed Taliban fighters attacking an Afghan National Defense and Security Forces checkpoint in the Zhari district, Kandahar, on Dec 10. (Air Force file photo)

Occasionally, Iranian and Taliban officials meet for what Tehran says are talks aimed at helping facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue.

Iran sees the presence of U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq as a threat on its doorstep and routinely calls for their departure. Iran and Afghanistan have some 945 kilometers (some 585 miles) of common border.

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