Afghanistan urges Iran to halt use of its nationals as mercenaries in Syria

The Afghan government says it opposes any kind of proxy war in the Middle East. (AP)
Updated 08 January 2018

Afghanistan urges Iran to halt use of its nationals as mercenaries in Syria

KABUL: Afghanistan has called on Iran to stop sending Afghan refugees as mercenaries of its proxy war in Syria, after it was revealed that more than 2,000 Afghan combatants had been killed in the war so far.
“The Afghan government opposes any kind of proxy war. As we dismiss proxy war in Afghanistan, we announce our opposition to proxy war in other countries as well,” Shah Hussien Murtazawi, chief spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, told Arab News.
“The blood of this country’s sons should not be spilt to further the goals and expansionist designs of a few countries ... Afghan sentiments and vulnerabilities should not be exploited for their (Iran’s) goals and objectives.”
In a rare confession, an Afghan official with the “Fatemiyoun Brigade,” which is composed of Afghan Shiites recruited in Iran, at the weekend said that more than 2,000 Iranian-trained members of the force had lost their lives in support of Bashar Assad’s regime.
The official, Zohair Mojahed, who was quoted initially by Iranian media and later became a source for Afghan press too, said that more than 8,000 Afghans had been wounded during Syria’s five-year war.
Afghanistan, which has been locked in four decades of war and foreign interventions, said Iran needed to stop the practice.
Iran has not denied sending Afghan Shiites to war in Syria and Iraq. More than a million Afghan nationals, displaced by their country’s long war, have been living in Iran for decades.
To lure the Afghan refugees, Tehran has offered a series of concessions, such as accommodation, long-term stays in Iran and monetary concessions, in return for taking part in its war in the Middle East, according to former Afghan combatants.
Analyst Matiullah Kharoti said that Iran had used Afghan refugees to fight in its war against Iraq in the 1980s and in its current conflict in the Middle East by offering them incentives. “They are not fighting a sectarian war in the Middle East, but Iran is exploiting their desperation and poverty,” Kharoti told Arab News.
Murtazawi said Kabul was aware of the issue and was addressing it. It was hoping to see a result from its push to end the sending of Afghan refugees living in Iran. “We are in contact through various channels with the neighboring country (Iran) so that this matter is pursued. Talks are underway to get a conclusive outcome,” Murtazawi said.


Dozens of Iraqi protestors wounded as anti-government unrest resumes

Updated 5 min 7 sec ago

Dozens of Iraqi protestors wounded as anti-government unrest resumes

  • In Baghdad’s Tayaran Square overnight, protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at police
  • Baghdad police said its forces had successfully reopened all the roads that were closed by “violent gatherings.”

BAGHDAD: Dozens of Iraqi protestors were wounded in Baghdad and other cities on Monday in clashes with security forces who were trying to clear blocked roads, security and medical sources said, as anti-government unrest resumed after a lull of several weeks.

In Baghdad’s Tayaran Square overnight, protestors threw petrol bombs and stones at police who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, Reuters witnesses said.

Elsewhere in southern Iraq, hundreds of protestors burned tires and blocked main roads in several cities, including Nassiriya, Kerbala and Amara. They say Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has not fulfilled promises including naming a new government acceptable to Iraqis.

“They (security forces) should stop shooting and aiming, who are they and who we are? Both sides are Iraqis. So why are you killing your brothers?” said one woman protestor in Baghdad who declined to give her name.

Baghdad police said its forces had successfully reopened all the roads that were closed by “violent gatherings.”

Mass protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, with mostly young protesters demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and as keeping most Iraqis in poverty. More than 450 people have been killed.

Numbers had dwindled but protests resumed last week as demonstrators sought to keep up momentum after attention turned to the threat of a US-Iran conflict following Washington’s killing of Tehran’s top general in an air strike inside Iraq.

The killing of Qassem Soleimani, to which Tehran responded with a ballistic missile attack on two Iraqi military bases, has highlighted the influence of some foreign powers in Iraq, especially Iran and the United States.