HERAT -- More than 100 residents of Herat Province gathered Monday (January 6) in Herat city to voice their support for the killing of a top Iranian military commander and to demand that Tehran stop using Afghanistan as a staging ground for its proxy wars.
The residents said they welcomed the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), by a US drone attack in Iraq on January 3.
The Iranian regime and Soleimani are responsible for the killing of thousands of Afghans whom they recruited as part of a unit of the IRGC called the Fatemiyoun Division, protesters said. The fighters were killed in the regime's proxy wars in a number of countries, especially in Syria.
"The killing of Soleimani will allow us [Afghans] to implement our infrastructure projects, such as dams," Sabria Nawrozi, a resident of Herat city, said at the rally in front of the governor's office. "Afghans should no longer take part in the Syrian war, and they have to stick to their original position [to not take part in the wars of others]."
"We support the killing of those who kill Afghans, as Afghans are also humans and have the right to live," she added. "Those individuals who put efforts into harming Afghans, we demand that they also see harm."
'A neutral country'
"As tensions grow between Iran and the United States, we are concerned that Afghanistan's security situation will get worse," Nawrozi added. "Afghanistan is a neutral country, and Iran doesn't have the right to use our soil for its proxy wars."
Omaid Naab, one of the rally participants and a civil society activist in Herat city, called on the Iranian regime to avoid transforming Afghanistan into a battlefield for its proxy wars.
"Recent changes in the Middle East that unfolded after the killing of Soleimani have made Afghans worried that Iran might use Afghan [soil] for fighting its proxy wars," he said.
"We want the United States not to allow any country to use our soil for their proxy wars, based on the agreement it has with Afghanistan," he added.
"We have concerns that Iran uses Afghan soil to achieve its interests and cause damage to the United States, but we demand that Iran, as a Muslim country with which we share language and culture, not use Afghan soil for achieving its goals," said Naab.
The death of Soleimani has had an impact on the security situation in Herat Province, and the Afghan people -- especially inhabitants of the western region -- are concerned about what will happen in the future, Naab said, adding that Afghans lack the ability to fight a new war.
A boost to stability
Soleimani was spearheading unrest in the Middle East and on some occasions in Afghanistan with the help of terrorist groups, say some Afghan analysts, who consider his death a key step in improving the security and stability of the region.
Soleimani's death reduces the influence of the Iranian regime in the region, said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political analyst in Herat city.
Soleimani "was playing an important role in fuelling crises and damaging the interests of the United States and the West in Middle Eastern countries such as Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq", he said.
"The killing of Soleimani decreases the spread of violence in the Middle East, limits the Iranian government's recruitment drive for various groups and creates positive consequences for ... regional peace and stability," he added.
The Quds Force of the IRGC, which operated under Soleimani's command, has been interfering with the internal matters of Afghanistan for almost 20 years, said Khalil Parsa, a political analyst based in Washington.
In recent years the group has supported the Taliban by providing them with weapons and money, said Parsa.
"Joint meetings of Iranian and Taliban authorities in Tehran reveal the country's clear support of the Taliban," added Parsa. "The [IRGC] provides intelligence and financial support to the Taliban."
"Soleimani was leading the war in Syria in which thousands of Afghans lost their lives as part of Fatemiyoun," he said. "The [IRGC] makes use of the desperate situation of Afghan labourers in Iran as it forces them to participate in the bloody wars in Syria and other countries."
The Quds Force often tried to destroy major Afghan projects like dams to benefit Iranian interests, said Parsa. In recent years, terrorist groups that receive support from Iran have attacked hydro-power dams several times in the western region [of Afghanistan], he added.
"When hydro-power dams are built in western and southern Afghanistan, Afghan rivers are diverted away from Iran," he said. "The [IRGC] often tried to prevent the building of these dams by providing finances and weapons to the Taliban and other terrorist groups."
Preventing destructive Iranian efforts
Security forces are working to prevent any type of proxy war and intervention by neighbouring countries, said authorities in Herat Province.
Afghan forces will not allow Afghan soil to be used by any group to benefit neighbouring countries, said Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for the Herat governor.
"Afghanistan maintains friendly diplomatic ties with all the countries in the region and across the world, and we won't allow Afghanistan to turn into a battleground for some neighbouring countries," said Farhad.
"All the countries, especially our neighbours, should operate in a way that doesn't harm the Afghan people," he said.
Afghan security forces are busy destroying terrorist groups in districts and villages, and they can defeat any type of threat posed by neighbouring countries and the groups they support, Farhad added.
"Afghan citizens have proved for years that they want peace," he said. "They will never allow terrorist groups, especially extremist groups, to use the territory of Afghanistan for the proxy wars of some countries."