July 29, 2010
Iranian Influence in Afghanistan: Imam Khomeini Relief Committee
This is the first in a series of AEI Middle Eastern Outlooks documenting Iran's growing influence in Afghanistan.
As the United States targets the Taliban in Afghanistan, Iran is using soft-power tactics to combat U.S. influence and win over the minds of the people. This Outlook examines the activities of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, a charitable organization that aims to promote Iran's ideological and political goals in Afghanistan. Since the early 1990s, the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee's Afghanistan arm has been expanding its budget and reaching more and more Afghans, which poses a growing threat to U.S. interests. To succeed in Afghanistan, the United States must focus not only on the hard power of the military, but also on a comprehensive soft-power strategy.
Key points in this Outlook:
The Imam Khomeini Relief Committee is part of Iran's larger goal of using soft power to gain influence in Afghanistan and throughout the region. An ostensible charity, it actively promotes Iran's ideological and political goals in Afghanistan. In particular, it promotes Shiism and incites anti-American sentiment.
The charity and its assets are under the control of Iran's supreme leader. It receives government funding, donations from private individuals both inside and outside Iran, and religious taxes, and it engages in fundraising activities outside Iran.
To combat this threat, the United States must add soft-power strategies to its military tactics in the Afghanistan war.