Chicago, Asharq Al-Awsat- A number of Afghan officials, civil society activists and organization leaders expressed have their discomfort at the magnitude of Iranian interference in their internal affairs. They have asserted that Iran is seeking to impose its control through exploiting Taliban, (parliament members) and Afghan Shiites, through the newspapers and television networks that it finances, and through the universities that have Iranian branches in Kabul. The Afghan officials whom Asharq Al-Awsat met on the sidelines of the NATO Chicago summit also claimed that Iran has recently changed its policies, and is now using more political means than in the past.
Ahmad Nader Nadery, Commissioner at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that neighboring states are causing disturbances within Afghanistan and hindering the government's work, especially Pakistan and Iran that are working together to interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
Nadery pointed out that Iran promotes its policy and ideology in Afghanistan through several means, most importantly the media.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: "Last year, the Iranians spent a lot of money to print newspapers in Afghanistan, which are distributed by their loyalists in order to spread their views." He added: "They also finance television channels that are run by Afghans on the face of it, but it is the Iranians who control their ideologies."
Nadery emphasized that Iran does not depend on the media alone, but rather it is also seeking to establish a strong infrastructure in his country by opening Iranian universities in Kabul and other areas of the country. He said: "Some of these universities are even branches of existing institutions in Kabul, such as the Free Islamic University."
The human rights commissioner accused Iran of being implicated in a number of bombings that were recently carried out in Kabul. However, he said: "I have no unequivocal evidence of Iran's involvement but, according to the intelligence authorities, most of the terrorist acts that take place in the country bear the hallmarks of Iran."
Nadery noted that there is also clear coordination between Moscow, Tehran, and Islamabad, with regards to Afghan affairs. He said: "A high-ranking Afghan Foreign Ministry official, who I do not wish to name, recently visited Islamabad and then Tehran and Moscow to discuss Afghan issues. He discovered that these three countries' stances were similar to a point where it became certain that they have already agreed on their policies toward Afghanistan."
For his part, Dr Mohammad Said Neyazi, head of the Civil Society Development Center in Afghanistan, said that Iran is attempting to buy Afghan Shiites to enlist in its ranks. He added that it is also attempting to maintain its control over the fighters who it supported during the war.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: "We believe that both Iran and Pakistan are setting up an alliance to carry out acts against the United States from Afghanistan. They are applying the principle of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend.'"
Neyazi also spoke about Iran's support for Taliban. He said: "They support them in several areas but they have recently changed their policy. Iran is now attempting to interfere in our politics through the parties that it supports inside the country, and through figures in the government who it pays"
He added: "They are trying to use political means, such as organizing demonstrations. Not long ago, their ambassador asked our parliament to suspend a partnership deal with the United States"
Dr. Neyazi affirmed: "In my opinion, the solution lies in our government cutting them down to size and pressuring them to change their behavior and be more diplomatic."
Commenting on the Chicago summit’s resolutions, with regards to laying down plans and strategies for the NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, Neyazi said that "the Afghans have asked NATO and the international community not to abandon them". He then revealed that they have received assurances from President Obama and NATO leaders that the Afghans will not be abandoned, and NATO troops will continue to be there to train the Afghan forces.