Part 2 of "Tehran's Turn" appeared yesterday in The New York Times Sunday Edition. Written by veteran Afghanistan reporter Carlotta Gall, "In Afghanistan, U.S. Exits, and Iran Comes In," repeats the fear-mongering of Part 1, which appeared mid-July, also in the Sunday paper, penned by Tim Arango, right down to the the headline, "Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’."
The idea communicated to The Times' large Sunday audience is simple: U.S. military occupation of the Greater Middle East is all that stands in the path of an aggressive incipient Iranian empire. The truth is a bit more complex, but not by much: Iran is merely collecting the windfall created by the bellicose imperial U.S.
Gall is a good reporter who certainly knows the truth of Afghanistan, that the Taliban are proxies of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan:
President Trump recently lamented that the United States was losing its 16-year war in Afghanistan, and threatened to fire the American generals in charge.
There is no doubt that as the United States winds down the Afghan war — the longest in American history, and one that has cost half a trillion dollars and more than 150,000 lives on all sides — regional adversaries are muscling in.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan remain the dominant players. But Iran is also making a bold gambit to shape Afghanistan in its favor.This "bold gambit" is fleshed out entirely with quotes from Afghan officials, particularly Afghan intelligence. So a discerning critical reader will come away skeptical as to the extent of Iranian influence in Afghanistan. Gall, based on her published story, could just have easily replaced Iran with Russia.
The story goes something like this: Taliban CEO Mullah Mansour was on his way back from a powwow in Iran with Russian officials when he was blown up by a U.S. drone. Pakistan had blessed the assassination believing that Mansour had strayed too far off the reservation:
The death of Mullah Mansour removed Iran’s crucial link to the Taliban. But it has also fractured the Taliban, spurring a number of high-level defections and opening opportunities for others, including Iran, to meddle.
An overwhelming majority of Taliban blame Pakistan for Mullah Mansour’s death. The strike deepened disillusionment with their longtime Pakistani sponsors.
About two dozen Taliban commanders, among them senior leaders who had been close to Mullah Mansour, have since left their former bases in Pakistan.
They have moved quietly into southern Afghanistan, settling back in their home villages, under protection of local Afghan security officials who hope to encourage a larger shift by insurgents to reconcile with the government.
Those with family still in Pakistan live under close surveillance and control by Pakistani intelligence, said the former Taliban commander, who recently abandoned the fight and moved his family into Afghanistan to escape reprisals.
He said he had become increasingly disaffected by Pakistan’s highhanded direction of the war. “We all know this is Pakistan’s war, not Afghanistan’s war,” he said. “Pakistan never wanted Afghanistan to be at peace.”The lede of Gall's story, that the Taliban are no longer entirely operated by remote control from Islamabad, thanks in no small part to assassination of Mullah Mansour, is buried beneath a lot of malarkey about Iranian meddling.
Any feelers the Taliban make in the direction of Russia and Iran are for peace. The Pakistan/U.S./Saudi position is one of perpetual war. That is how the U.S. role in Afghanistan is frequently referred to now in the mainstream media.