Iran is beginning to fund aid projects for Afghanistan. These projects are expected to fill the void left by the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan. Iran is also helping to expand intelligence networks across Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is very important to Iran’s capital city of Tehran and the means for the capital city to come out of international isolation. Close ties between the two countries include the fact that Iran shares a language with Afghanistan, and millions of Afghans work in Iran, while Iran also supplies electricity to western cities in Afghanistan like Herat. Tehran and Baghdad also seem to agree on the security concerns of the Syrian civil war.
Iran’s aid to Afghanistan does not necessarily compare to the U.S., but it will continue to grow. Despite the many close ties and the support the countries have for one another, some Afghans still dislike some of the conditions that come with Iranian aid. According to a high-ranking official in Afghanistan’s palace, Iranian influence could be something to fear. He mentioned that Iran could mobilize 20,000 Afghans while omitting political and cultural influence that isn’t necessarily easy to fight.
Still, Afghan officials have been receiving Iranian aid for years, like suitcases full of cash from Tehran – a gift for good relations. Iran seems to have no time to stop spreading their influence across the eastern borders. To do this effectively, the country uses Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, or the IKRC, which is a secretive aid organization that works internationally. The IKRC works directly with Afghans, which is different from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which gives aid through private contractors or hides the origin. Western and Afghan officials say that working directly with Afghan applicants aims to put economic help and efforts to gather intelligence together.
The IKRC isn’t popular to some Afghan citizens, including one man who said a background check with details of extended family must be provided in order to apply for aid. This leads some U.S. officials to believe that this process of the IKRC is used so that aid only goes to those loyal to Iran.
U.S. officials seem to be skeptical of this aid, ensuring that Afghans will soon view Iran with suspicion, and this would then bring Iran’s efforts failure.
Still, it will be interesting to see Iranian influence in Afghanistan in the coming months. It is definitely worth watching the trend of this aid being popular or not cared for according to citizens and especially officials of both countries.