Amid escalating tensions with Afghanistan, the Iranian regime has sent senior military commanders to restive areas as the Taliban took control of aborder post.
Clashes at the border on Saturday over water rights claimed the lives of at least two Iranians and one Taliban soldier. According to a report by Iranian reformist daily newspaper Ham-Mihan, about 50 Iranians have been killed in border regions since 2020.
While Taliban forces gave thanks to God after allegedly seizing a guard post inside Iranian territory on Saturday, two senior Iranian military officials have been visiting the region.
Despite Iran saying the clashes are over and the situation is in control, Taliban sources have released videos of capturing an outpost inside Iran.
Qasem Rezaei, deputy commander of Iran's Law Enforcement Forces and Kiumars Heydari, the Commander of the Iranian Army's Ground Forces, travelled to Sistan-Baluchestan province bordering Afghanistan to probe the situation. Both officers are sanctioned by the United States.
Sistan-Baluchistan, with a hot and arid climate, is populated by less than 3 million people, most of whom are ethnic Baluch who are Sunni Muslims, in contrast with the Shiite majority in Iran. Poverty and under-development plague the region.
Heydari said, “The common borders with Afghanistan are fully under the control of the army's ground forces... and security is fully established,” adding that “it has been pointed out many times that our presence at the border does not mean that there is any danger threatening us, but … security is maintained at the borders.”
“There may sometimes be a difference between the two border guards, which is not an important issue, and the situation is completely under control,” he added.
“Our comrades in border guards and ground forces are completely dominant in the region, and as long as Afghanistan’s forces respect international regulations, we will show mutual respect and maintain the policy of good neighborliness,” but if the other side does not want to comply with the regulations, Iranian forces will encounter them, he said.
Mohammad Baset Dorrazehi, the former parliament member representing the province, said, “I said many times that local soldiers should be used for this region. Non-natives are not familiar with the environment and even in terms of climate, they cannot tolerate these conditions."
At least three sources from the Taliban confirmed to Afghanistan International that during the conflict, the fighters of this group had entered the territory of Iran. However, the Taliban did not confirm or deny the report of the capture of the Iranian outpost.
In response to Afghanistan International's question about reports on the clashes, a Taliban source said: "The Taliban do not joke in war."
The Taliban's Interior Ministry spokesman says the group does not seek to engage in a war with Afghanistan's neighbors.
Amid escalating tensions, Iran’s Border Guard and the Taliban exchanged heavy gunfire on Saturday on the Islamic Republic's border with Afghanistan. Iran says its forces inflicted “heavy casualties and serious damage”.
Disputes between Tehran and Kabul have risen over the Taliban’s obstruction of Iran's access to Helmand River water in violation of a 1973 treaty.
Iran has accused Afghanistan's Taliban of violating a 1973 treaty by restricting the flow of water from the Helmand River to Iran's parched eastern regions, an accusation denied by the Taliban.
"Today, in Nimroz province, Iranian border forces fired toward Afghanistan, which was met with a counter-reaction," spokesman for the Taliban-run interior ministry, Abdul Nafi Takor, said in a statement.
"The situation is under control now. The Islamic Emirate does not want to fight with its neighbors," the spokesman said, without identifying the victims.
A Taliban defense ministry spokesman said the Taliban "considers dialogue and negotiation to be a reasonable way for any problem. Making excuses for war and negative actions is not in the interest of any of the parties.”
Earlier in May, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned the Taliban over disregarding Iran's water rights under the 1973 treaty. The Taliban rejected Raisi's perceived threat, with a former Taliban official mocking Raisi in a video that went viral.
Last week, Iranian media reported that five Iranian border guards were killed following a "terrorist" attack by several people who were trying to enter Iran from the Pakistan border.