A US marine watches Afghan commandos take part in a combat training exercise at Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province late last year. Photo: AFP / Wakil Kohsar

If Iran goes to war with the United States in retaliation for the killing of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, it will lose, as the US is one of the strongest countries in the world militarily, and Iran could be destroyed within days. As well, the implications would be severe for the other countries in the region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, the Iranians would win politically, as they have many friends in the region including Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with China and Russia. The Afghan government has shown willingness to help de-escalate tension between Iran and the US. The Afghan government has issued a statement regarding the recent development in Iraq, noting, “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been following the developments in the region closely and is committed to maintaining and expanding its bilateral and multilateral relations with all countries in the region and around the world.”

President Ashraf Ghani has been accused of changing Afghanistan’s foreign policy toward Arab countries, particularly the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as he is mostly focused on the alignment of foreign policy with national interests.

Afghanistan has been a hotbed for regional rivalry over the past decades, and Iran has lots of influence in the country because it sent militia brigades to Syria to fight in support of Iran’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. The Iranian regime supported thousands of Fatemiyoun, an Afghan Shiite minority militia from whom an estimated 20,000 hardened fighters joined with Assad’s forces in Syria. Iran could also use Fatemiyoun in Afghanistan itself to give American forces a bloody nose and strike their bases, though certainly innocent Afghans would also die as a result of bombing and clashes. Plus Iran has close ties with the Taliban.

The Afghan population cannot tolerate any more regional rivalry, and defending their country and territory is the first priority. The Afghan government should take a few security measures as a result of the Iran-US conflict.

First and foremost, it’s important to increase intelligence surveillance in most Shiite areas around Afghanistan, particularly in Kabul, Ghanzi, Daikundi and Maidan Wardak. Defusing any threat to the lives of innocent Afghans in any part of the country while at the same time reinforcing intelligence operatives in those areas is crucial.

Second, the Afghan security forces along with the National Directorate of Security should closely monitor any rallies of popular Shiite leaders in the country who have been sympathetic to Iranian interests in the region. Furthermore, they should advise the Afghan Shia leaders to distract their followers from the rivalry between the US and Iran now and possibly in the future.

Third, Kabul should make it clear to the American forces who have supported the Afghan National Security forces over the past many years that Afghans will defend themselves and urge them to de-escalate, as Afghanistan could play a critical role in easing the tension between the US and Iran, as a neighbor of Afghanistan.

Fourth, the Afghan government should deploy more military assets to Herat, Farah and Nimroz in order to protect the border areas with Iran, as many times those provinces were close to falling into the hands of the Taliban with Iranian support. Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for attacking the provincial capital of Farah in close collaboration with the Taliban, and in the same way, the Quds Force helped the Taliban attack Ghazni province.

Fifth, Afghan security forces should increase their surveillance on the border between Afghanistan and Iran and prevent illegal crossings by Iranian operatives.

Finally, Afghanistan can no longer tolerate seeing its people get killed in a regional rivalry. Soleimani was an Iranian national and he served his country to the utmost. His daughter threatened regional countries with dire consequences, so all the countries in the region must take steps in order to prevent any innocent civilians from being killed in the US-Iran rivalry.

Soleimani once in video message clearly said, “I say this with the experience that there are multiple opportunities in conflict-ridden countries and crisis that you won’t even find such opportunities, but we shouldn’t be scared and not make our allies get scared.”

In its nascent concepts of guerrilla warfare, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) and its powerful Quds Force built on the ideals of the mujahideen and Fedayeen throughout the region.

Ihsanullah Omarkhail

Ihsanullah Omarkhail is a PhD candidate in the field of non-traditional security management at Zhejiang University, China. His research areas include terrorism, peace, state building, and China-US competition.

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