KABUL -- Tehran is working to establish a Taliban splinter group with the goal of halting the peace process, say officials.
Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are expected to soon begin after the militants and the United States inked a peace agreement in February.
Hezb-e-Wilayat-e-Islami, a group of Taliban commanders who are not happy with the peace agreement and are opposed to ending the conflict, is being supported by Tehran and its allies, an Afghan intelligence official told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in early June on the condition of anonymity.
The group has not yet been "officially announced", he said, adding that members include radical Taliban commanders and smaller Taliban offshoots.
The existence of the group was first reported by the United Nations earlier in June.
The military strength of the group is unknown, and it appears to be based in Iran, Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban analyst with the Royal United Services Institute in London, told RFE/RL.
Tehran does not want peace and an end to the conflict in Afghanistan. Therefore, it uses every available means available to keep the war going, said Abdul Sattar Hussaini, a member of the Wolesi Jirga representing Farah Province.
"Several Taliban groups, especially in the western zone, are under complete Iranian support and do not abide by the peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States," Hussaini said.
"These people do anything they are told by Iran," he said. "Iran never wants to reduce its influence in Afghanistan and over the terrorist groups."
The Taliban do not have a unified leadership or stance on issues, according to Ghulam Hassan Majroh, a military analyst in Kabul.
Its leadership does not have complete control over individual groups -- most Taliban members operate under the command of one or more individuals, each of whom is linked to various foreign intelligence agencies, he said.
"There is no doubt that a number of Taliban commanders will be recruited to serve the interests of some countries by pulling out of the peace agreement."
"This group of Taliban will continue fighting in Afghanistan in the future by taking instructions from intelligence agencies in neighbouring countries and harming the peace process," he added.
Opposing the United States
Intelligence agencies in neighbouring countries and in the region work hard to pose serious challenges to the United States in Afghanistan, often inciting Taliban and terrorist groups against American and Afghan forces, according to Majroh.
"The objective of the countries that oppose the American presence in Afghanistan is to see the United States defeated. They don’t care how many people will lose their lives; all they care about are their interests," he said.
The regimes that seek to harm American interests and support the Taliban not only include Iran but also Russia and China, said Mohammad Anwar Haroon, a military analyst in Badghis Province. None of them want a US presence in Afghanistan, he added.
These countries use all means to harm American goals and interests in the region, especially in Afghanistan, Haroon said, adding that their influence is a factor behind the continuing conflict.
"After the signing of the peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States, Taliban attacks have increased in several provinces, indicating that some countries do not want peace in Afghanistan. They support and encourage some Taliban commanders to increase violence," he added.
Some Taliban are truly tired of violence and want peace, he said. They want to abide by the peace agreement, but others who are supported by intelligence agencies of neighbouring countries continue to fight and disobey the Taliban leadership.
"The support of neighboring countries for the Taliban, especially Iran's, and the establishment of extremist groups harm peace in Afghanistan and will open fronts for a new conflict in Afghanistan," Haroon said.
Military and financial support
The Iranian regime has long been accused of providing military and financial support to the Taliban, an allegation corroborated by the discovery of weapon shipments in Herat Province, which borders Iran.
Afghan forces on April 30 seized hundreds of mortars and a large quantity of explosives in an operation in Ghorian District of Herat Province.
Similarly, in an operation on February 12, Afghan forces uncovered a Taliban weapons and ammunition depot containing dozens of weapons and explosives in Zindajan District, Herat Province.
Afghan police also discovered and seized 23 tonnes of bullets in an operation on March 23 in Herat city.
The weapons and ammunition came from neighboring countries to Herat, said Afghan authorities without naming any specific country.
Reports have emerged stating that the Taliban have received weapons and ammunition from some neighbouring countries in the western zone, which they use against the Afghan government and people, said Maj. Gen. Zabihullah Mohmand, commander of the 207th Zafar Corps.
"The war in Afghanistan is a war of intelligence. Intelligence agencies in neighbouring countries support a number of terrorist groups to kill security forces and civilians ... some Taliban groups fight for the interest of neighbouring countries," he said.
Security forces, especially the Afghan National Army, are watching groups that fight for the interests of foreign countries and receive money and weapons from them. They have taken action against such groups in the past and will suppress them again, he added.
"The Taliban in the western zone are not the decision-makers; they receive orders from outside," Mohmand said. "This shows that the Taliban have foreign patrons who provide them with money and weapons to continue the war."
The Taliban would be destroyed in just a few days if they did not have the support of foreign intelligence agencies, he said.