November 08, 2010

Iranian Influence in Afghanistan: Refugees as Political Instruments

Originally published in AEI Middle Eastern Outlook

This is the second in a series of Middle Eastern Outlooks documenting Iran's growing influence in Afghanistan.

As the United States and its allies target the Taliban in Afghanistan, Iran is using the forced return of Afghan refugees to leverage its influence in Afghanistan at the expense of U.S. interests. Waves of refugees cause humanitarian crises and are used to shield the movement of foreign terrorists into Afghanistan. This Outlook examines how the Iranian government systematically uses forced repatriation of Afghans living in Iran both to undermine U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and to extract concessions from the Afghan government.

Key points in this Outlook:

  • Iranian influence in Afghanistan is not benign; its forced repatriation of Afghans living in Iran destabilizes western Afghanistan.

  • By threatening to flood Afghanistan with waves of refugees, the Iranian government forces the Afghan government to comply with its demands.

  • U.S. aid to Afghanistan must take into account the millions of refugees living outside the country.