Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, speaks during the first meeting of national security secretaries of Afghanistan, China, Iran, India and Russia in Tehran in September. Photo: AFP

Amid reports that the US is preparing to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan significantly, Iran says it is in talks with the Taliban as part of efforts to ensure stability in the region.

“The series of contacts and talks with the Taliban group have taken place with the knowledge of the Afghan government,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on Wednesday, according to Iranian state-owned media. “That trend will continue,” he stressed.

Shamkhani emphasized the need for “the active participation of regional countries in security processes” to help foster stability in a country that has been ravaged by war.

Iran’s involvement comes as the United States is said to be looking at drawing down troop numbers to levels not seen since the early days of US military operations there. A US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in 2001, beginning a 17-year mission that is now the longest military conflict in the history of the United States.

At its height, US military action in Afghanistan saw some 100,000 troops deployed as part of a “surge” ordered in 2009 during the administration of president Barack Obama. News reports have indicated that the current administration of President Donald Trump is planning to cut the current force of around 14,000 personnel in half.

Shamkhani made his comments while on a one-day visit to Afghanistan with an Iranian delegation to meet with officials from the Afghan government. In addition to announcing the talks with the Taliban, Shamkhani voiced concern that the expansion of ISIS in the region remains a “serious” threat.

“The cooperation of the two countries will undoubtedly be very effectual in resolving Afghanistan’s current security problems,” Shamkhani said.

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