Afghanistan/Russia/Iran – Afghan Senate members have certified the existence of documents affirming that Taliban collected endorsements from both Iran and Russia it was reported on the 8 Dec 16. Indeed, Taliban members are located in the cities of Mashhad, Yazd and Kerman in Iran. They often travel to and fro between the two countries, according to locals at the border of Afghanistan. The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied these reports. A number of deputies of the Council of elders of Afghanistan, advocated that: “Moscow supplied the Taliban with ammunition in order to restrain the widening influence of ISIS and its affiliated groups in Afghanistan and preclude threats against the Central Asian countries.” The Governor of the state of Farah in Afghanistan, Asif Ning, explained in an interview with the Dari-speaking ‘Freedom Radio’, the circumstances surrounding the latency of Taliban on Iranian territory, stating: “They are living in the cities of Yazd, Kerman and Mashhad. They eventually return to Afghanistan to vandalize. At the time being, a number of senior members of the Taliban leaders are living in Iran.” “The bodies of Taliban fighters killed in recent clashes were delivered to their families in Iran,” he added. It is against this background that the spokesperson of the Iranian Foreign Ministry Bahram Kasimi refuted the above allegations declaring that “the reports affirming the presence of Taliban members in Iran are clearly unfounded as fraternal relations exist between Iran and Kabul on the basis of common interests.” The report states, quoting the head of the Afghan Senate, Fadel Hadi Muslim Yar, that “there are in our possession supporting evidence confirming the cooperation between both Russia and Iran with the Taliban.” In addition, as revealed by the American-run radio ‘Freedom’, which broadcasts in Afghanistan in Persian, Dari and Pashtun the Taliban are often seen crossing the border into Iran according to local border residents. Several Afghan lawmakers also affirm Tehran’s involvement in supplying sophisticated weapons to the Taliban. Moreover, the report quoted the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan General Jean Nicholson. The latter stressed the “the involvement of other countries in terrorism on the Afghan territory”. He further asserted that: “These countries are not only supporting terrorism, but providing favourable conditions for terrorists to exploit the Afghan territory. Hence, facilitating their terrorist activities” As confidentially disclosed by an Afghan immigrant living in the Iranian city of Taybad, members of the Taliban are attempting to limit their appearance in public places and to living in confinement from the rest of the Afghans (in Iran). Furthermore, according to radio ‘Freedom’ experts, all of Iran, Tajikistan and Russia are cooperating in supporting the Taliban militia. It was Vladimir Putin's special envoy to Afghanistan Damir Kepplov who voiced, in a statement to the news agency Anatolia, his deep concerns about the growth of terrorism in Afghanistan. However, Afghan lawmakers oppose any intervention by Russia and Iran in Kabul’s affairs. It is important to know that the Mullah Akthar Mansour, leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, was targeted and killed by a US drone in the Pakistani border on May 21 while returning from Iran. Following this incident, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced that the authorities have found the passport of a Pakistani man carrying the name of Wali Muhammad at the precise site where the drone respectively targeted the Taliban leader Mullah Mansour Akthar. Besides, the ministry added that it was a passport with a valid visa for entering Iran. As previously reported by the news agency Tasnim, which is close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a delegation headed by the chief officer of the political bureau of the Afghan Taliban, Taib Agha arrived in the evening of Monday, May 12, to the Iranian capital Tehran. Subsequently, the delegation met a number of Iranian security officials to discuss several issues, including the situation in the region, and the concerns over Afghan immigrants in Iran, without giving further details. In this regard, Taib Agha is both the press spokesperson and personal interpreter of the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He is also one of the few persons in close and direct contact with the Mullah. Additionally, Agha also chairs the political body of the Taliban in charge of developing political plans for the movement and the expansion of its relations with foreign countries. Accordingly, three visits were undertaken by the official delegation of the Afghan movement in Iran, while counting an earlier visit as part of the delegation’s participation in the Islamic Awakening conference held by Iran in the past four years. At a time when Iranian forces are standing by on Syrian territory to support Bashar al-Assad along with elements of Shia Hazara Afghan militants, Tehran is supporting the Taliban, a radical Sunni movement hostile to the Hazara as classified on the Afghan soil. Before the Taliban delegation’s visit to Tehran years ago, the Daily Telegraph published in February 2012 a report revealing the cooperation between Iran and the Taliban, which stated that the Iranian authorities have allowed a member of the Shoura Council of the Taliban to open an office in the city of Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province in eastern Iran. The newspaper pointed out that the communications between the two sides were monitored. Within two months of opening the office, it showed that the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was considering a strategy to send surface-to-air missiles to Afghanistan, but the newspaper said “there is no evidence that such weapons were actually delivered to the said location.” The newspaper reported that Iran’s goal behind this move was to block the strategic partnership agreement concluded with the United States in Afghanistan which dates back to April 2011. Furthermore, the Iranian Foreign Ministry denied the news, stating that they only recognize the Afghan government as the legitimate government. At the time, ISIS was not mentioned. Now Iran is supporting the Taliban and is allying with the group in Afghanistan to counter ISIS efforts. Under the same pretence, Iranian forces are located in both Iraq and Syria. In the same way, Russia has also justified its military support for the President of the Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad.
Afghanistan/Iran/Taliban/ (United States) – In an unprecedented move, Tehran is publicly hosting leaders of hardline Taliban movement in the ‘Islamic Unity’ conference it was reported on the 14 Dec 16. Tehran had previously denied any direct contact with the movement. According to the Iranian Mehr news agency, Iranian cleric Mohsen Araki, who is the Secretary-General of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, said at a press conference on Tuesday that Tehran has invited moderate figures such as Taliban to attend the two-day International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran. Araki said that “the invitation was sent to some Islamic and political figures in the Taliban movement who believe in the unity of Muslims,” stressing that “Iran has always held contacts with some parties in the Taliban movement, who believe in the Islamic unity.” This announcement comes two days after the statement of the Iranian ambassador to Kabul, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, who spoke about talks between his country and hardline Taliban. Afghan authorities had accused Tehran of providing military and logistical support to Taliban, which in turn has in recent months escalated its operations in various regions of the country. 361 COMMENT: With the United States declaring further sanctions on Iran it is possible that Iran are now openly courting the Taliban which would go against the United States wishes. This will be a step that they can court and get away with as it will not directly impact on the nuclear deal. But with openly siding with the Taliban it has now stated that it is against the Afghan government no matter what rhetoric it will spin in the future. There will be more support for the Taliban from Iran and there will be other groups that will be openly supported in the coming year. COMMENT ENDS
Russia/Da’esh – Russia’s FSB security service said on the 4 Dec 16 it had killed an “emir” of the ISIS group in the North Caucasus along with four other militants in a raid in the Dagestan region. The FSB said in a statement that “among the neutralized bandits was the head of the Caucasus region’s branch of the Islamic State Rustam Aselderov, and four of his close associates.” The FSB said that Aselderov was involved in 2013 blasts in the southern Russian city of Volgograd which killed 34. He was fighting for another Caucasus insurgent group at the time. It also linked him to twin car blasts in Dagestan in 2012 that killed 14 and injured at least 120. The 35-year-old warlord pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Dec 14 the first major militant to do so in the Caucasus. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on police in Dagestan. In 2015 the US Department of State imposed sanctions on Aselderov as a “foreign terrorist fighter” after the militant group appointed him leader of its North Caucasus franchise. ISIS named Aselderov, also known as Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Qadari, the governor of a new province after Islamist militants in the region pledged allegiance to the jihadist group. The Russian North Caucasus is one of the major sources of foreign militant fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Russia/Da’esh – A terrorist group planning 'high profile' bomb attacks in Moscow over the festive season has been smashed by the FSB security service it was reported on the 15 Dec 16. The attacks were being plotted on the orders of Islamic State group, according to the agency that Vladimir Putin once headed up. Firearms, rounds of ammunition, self-made explosive devices, and a 'large quantity of substances for making powerful explosives' were seized. 'The militants prepared the terrorist attacks upon the direct order of an emissary of the Islamic State international terrorist organization outlawed in Russia,' the FSB said. 'The activity of a subversive terrorist group consisting of nationals of Tajikistan and a citizen of Moldova, who were planning to commit a series of high-profile terrorist acts in Moscow with the use of high-power improvised explosive devices, has been terminated,' a spokesman added. Four members of the group, from the ex-Soviet republics, were detained in Moscow, added the agency, formerly part of the KGB. TV Dozhd reported the attacks were planned for the New Year holidays. Russia does not mark Christmas in December, but two weeks later in January under the old Orthodox calendar. The country closes down for holidays from the New Year until 9 January and it was during this period it is believed the attacks were scheduled. The alleged mastermind - now in Turkey - was on an international wanted list issued by Tajikistan, said the FSB. Russia is seen by some experts as a target for revenge attacks by terrorists due to its large scale military action in Syria. Members of the alleged cell who were detained are migrants to Russia, said the FSB. A Tass report quoted FSB director Alexander Bortnikov as saying recruiters 'deliberately use migrants for the radicalisation of citizens coming from former Soviet countries who failed to adapt to life in Russia.' They form 'autonomous groups for carrying out terrorist attacks'. Some 42 terrorism-related crimes were prevented in Russia this year, Bortnikov said earlier this week. Several attempts of natives of former Soviet states to carry out terrorist attacks in crowded places and transport facilities were prevented in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod, he said.
Turkey – Two explosions rocked the Turkish city of Istanbul near a football stadium, killing 38 and wounding 166 people on the night of the 10/11 Dec 16. The two blasts exploded less than a minute apart near the Besiktas Stadium just two hours after the end of a football match. Soon after, multiple gun shots were heard coming from the same location. Turkish Deputy PM said there are indications that the attack was carried out by Kurdish militants PKK. Turkey Interior Minister said 13 people have been detained in relation to the bombing. Seven killed in the blast were civilians, one was unidentified. 30 killed were police officers, including a police chief and another senior officer, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said. “Our sources tell us that the riot police van was targeted as it was exiting the Besiktas Stadium. We are seeing the entire neighbourhoods surrounding the area on high alert with police and ambulance cars everywhere,” Al Hadath’s correspondent reported from Istanbul. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the blasts as a terrorist attack on police and civilians, adding that the aim of the bombings had been to cause the maximum number of casualties. “Nobody should doubt that with God’s will, we as a country and a nation will overcome terror, terrorist organizations ... and the forces behind them,” he said in a statement.