Iran rejects peace agreement between US, Taliban

US, allies pledge to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan within 14 months if Iran-funded Taliban abide by terms of agreement.

TEHRAN - Iran, which supports the Afghan Taliban with money and arms, expressed on Sunday its rejection of the agreement signed between the United States of America and the Taliban in Doha, noting that Washington had no legal status to allow this to determine the future of the country.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Sunday in a statement that sustainable peace in Afghanistan will only be achieved "through the Afghan-Afghan dialogue and with the participation of all political components in the country, including the Taliban, taking into account the observations of the countries neighbouring Afghanistan.”

They added that "the Islamic Republic welcomes any change that helps peace and stability in Afghanistan, and supports the efforts made in this framework under the leadership and management of Afghans."

"America is not in a legal position to sign a peace agreement or determine the fate of the future of Afghanistan. We believe that the United Nations is the body that has the appropriate capacity to facilitate negotiations between Afghans as well as overseeing talks," the State Department statement said.

The Iranian position comes the day after an announcement of the signing of a historic agreement between the United States and the Taliban on Saturday in the Qatari capital Doha, aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan.

The agreement could pave the way towards a complete withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan and represents a step towards ending the 18-year-old war, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also criticised the clause on Taliban prisoners as stipulated in the Doha agreement.

Ghani announced Sunday the extension of the partial truce that preceded the signing of the agreement between the Taliban and the US for a week in order to reach a "full" ceasefire, stressing that his government had not made any commitment to release 5,000 Taliban detainees.

The week of "reducing violence" came before the agreement was signed to start a political settlement aimed at ending the US’ longest war.

The US and its allies have pledged to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban abide by the terms of the agreement, including starting talks with Kabul with the intention of reaching a real peace agreement.

"Reducing the violence will continue with the goal of achieving a complete ceasefire," Ghani said during a press conference in Kabul, explaining that the commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, US General Scott Miller, informed the Taliban of this decision.

The Afghan President stressed that not releasing the Taliban detainees "is the right of the Afghan people and their sincere desire. This will form part of the program of work for the internal Afghan talks, but it cannot be a prerequisite for talks.”

Western diplomats say that the Doha agreement could disturb relations between Doha and Tehran, which had previously sought to host peace talks in Afghanistan under its auspices, but Qatar's insistence on putting its hand on the Afghan file will have a negative impact that increases Iran's apprehension of Qatar’s real intentions, despite its eagerness to come close to the Iranian regime in recent years, which resulted in isolation from its Gulf neighbours.

The diplomats believe that Ghani's comments also came in line with the Iranian position, amid difficulties facing US negotiators in pushing the Afghan government and the Taliban to the negotiating table.

And Iran, which shares over 900 km in borders with Afghanistan, had previously sought to embrace a dialogue between the Afghan parties, according to a project presented to the Afghan government, but those attempts failed.

Last December, Tehran, which supports the Taliban with money and arms, hosted a "regional security dialogue" conference to discuss the Afghan file, in the presence of national security advisors for Russia, India, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, in a move to disrupt peace talks between Washington and the Taliban.

And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned Iran Friday, that is, before attending the signing of the agreement in Doha, alongside US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, against making any attempt to deflect the course of the historic agreement with the hardline Afghan movement.

"It is customary for Iran to engage in activities in Afghanistan for a sabotage role," Pompeo said during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

He added, "We are closely watching whether the Islamic Republic of Iran is taking concrete measures that undermine our endeavors for peace and reconciliation."

According to him, Iran may pose an increasing threat to American forces, whose number should decrease gradually after the signing of the agreement.

In previous reports, the Pentagon confirmed that Tehran is providing financial, military and training support to the Taliban, as Afghan officials accuse them of, but Iranian officials have always denied these accusations.

Mullah Sher Muhammad, a former Taliban commander in Faryab province in northern Afghanistan, who joined the peace talks, previously admitted that "the Taliban are not independent and are led by the Iranians, Pakistanis and Chechens."