HERAT -- Afghan citizens are denouncing a recent promise by the Taliban to protect the Iranian regime's interests in Afghanistan at the same time the militant group continues its campaign to undermine Afghan infrastructure projects.
The Taliban, weakened by the collapse of the peace talks with the United States, are sending members to Tehran and Moscow in a bid to bolster support from the two countries.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, confirmed a visit of four representatives to Iran in a tweet on September 16.
The Taliban's representatives spoke with the Iranian authorities about the safety and progress of Iranian-funded projects in Afghanistan, he said.
This promise to protect Tehran's interests in Afghanistan ignited widespread anger among Afghans.
"It is a big mistake if the Taliban are providing security only to the projects that Iran implements in Afghanistan," said Mohammad Rafiq Shahir, a political affairs analyst in Herat city. "Any [development] project that is implemented in Afghanistan by any country belongs to the Afghan people."
"If the Taliban really care for the Afghan people, they have to provide security to all the projects being implemented throughout Afghanistan and let everyone elevate his [or her] life and economic status so that opportunities for growth can emerge in the country," he said.
Security forces are prepared to ensure the protection of all development projects, said Jilani Farhad, a spokesperson for the Herat governor.
"Armed anti-government elements have proven their enmity toward the public by disrupting the implementation of construction and development projects," Farhad said. "Although disruptive groups create problems for project implementation, the security and defence forces in Herat have the ability to strongly respond to enemies and to ensure security for the development projects."
"There are real examples of the Taliban's destructive attacks on development projects that include murdering the workers of road construction companies, engineers of development projects and workers building the Herat ring road," he added.
"Most of the national projects that are implemented in Herat, including the highways, the Citizens' Charter project and hydro-power dams, are under threat by the enemy. The enemies try to inflict damage on these large economic projects," Farhad said.
The group's trip to Iran follows a highly questioned trip to Moscow.
The Taliban's trip to Tehran and the warm welcome given them by the Iranian regime have also stoked the ire of the Afghan government.
This act breaches international laws and mutual respect between the two neighbouring countries, Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani's office, wrote in a Facebook post on September 17, without naming a specific country.
"We don't expect our neighbouring countries to host a terrorist group that still kills innocent Afghans and intends to destroy Afghanistan," Sediqqi said. "Our neighbours should abide by international laws, especially [those of] neighbours' rights, and support only those efforts taken by the legitimate government of Afghanistan."
Iran was the only neighbour of Afghanistan where the Taliban travelled last week.
"The Taliban continue to kill Afghans, and they are proudly taking responsibility for it," he added. "The Taliban's culture is still war and violence and killing people.
"The Taliban are still a dangerous group that threatens regional and global security. I believe that hosting such a group is against all the principles of mutual relations between countries. Doing this to the Afghan government, which has always insisted in friendly relations with its neighbours, is especially [against all the principles]," Sediqqi said.
After the peace talks were called off between the Taliban and the United States, the Taliban have been travelling to these countries as part of an effort to restore their lost reputation and to show that the Iranian and Russian regimes are supporting them, said Jawad Ameed, a civil society activist in Herat.
The Taliban are looking for supporters, and "this is why they have extended their hands to their main backers", he said.
"Iran is among the countries that have always used the Taliban as a weapon, and it has always tried to accomplish their goals through the Taliban," Ameed added. "Currently, the Taliban have intensified their attacks, killing tens of civilians every day. If Iran and Russia continue to support the Taliban, these countries will be hated by Afghans and people around the globe."
It is shameful that the Taliban defend Iran's interests in Afghanistan while they continue to destroy development projects in the country, say residents of western Afghanistan.
"The Taliban have joined forces with the enemies of the Afghan people, and they [together] fight against Afghans," said Wahid Ahmad Joya, a resident of Herat city. "We have been very much aware of the Taliban's evil intention, and public hatred of the Taliban is at an all-time high."
"This act of the Taliban means declaring war against the Afghan people," he added. "While Iran tries to destroy our hydro-power dams, the Taliban are shamelessly approaching the country to ask them for help in destroying the country."
"The Taliban can no longer claim that their war in Afghanistan is jihad," said Jalil Ahmad Niazi, a resident of Qala-e-Naw, capital of Badghis Province. "The Taliban have devalued the blood of millions of Afghans as they went to Russia to ask it for help."
"The Taliban have always tried to destroy our national projects," said Baz Muhammad Alkozay, a resident of Herat city.
"The Taliban's goal is to destroy Afghanistan's water and electricity dams and large economic projects. Iran gives money to the group [the Taliban] to prevent the construction of Bakhshabad Dam and to destroy Salma Dam," he said.