KABUL: The newly appointed commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, General Ismail Qaani, travelled to Afghanistan’s central province of Bamiyan using a false identity last year, the governor of the province said on Thursday.
Qaani, 62, was appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who issued a statement praising his role as a prominent commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. As a key branch of the military organization, the country’s most powerful security organ, the Quds Force carries out the Iranian military’s special operations abroad.
Qaani takes over from Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Tehran’s overseas clandestine and military operations, who was killed on Friday in a US air strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport.
Tahir Zaheer, the governor of Afghanistan’s rugged central province of Bamiyan said last year that Qaani and eight other Iranians travelled to Bamiyan in a small airplane. The general introduced himself as deputy ambassador of Iran to Kabul and used the last name Ismaili, Zaheer said.
“The esteemed (Afghan) foreign ministry needs to find out as to how he was given visa, under what name and what sort of passport,” Zaheer told Arab News.
Zaheer said Qaani visited Bamiyan to restart construction work on an Iran-funded 120-bed hospital, where work had come to a halt in recent months.
Afghanistan and Iran share a border. Afghanistan has a sizeable Shia population and many followers of the sect have reportedly been recruited by the Quds Force in recent years to fight in Iraq and Syria.
On Tuesday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said Qaani had never served as a diplomat in Afghanistan.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Idrees Zaman said Qaani’s visit was being investigated but it was clear that he “never served as deputy ambassador.”