TEHRAN -- Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Friday urged the Taliban to ensure the safety of its diplomats and staff at its consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat, which the Taliban has said it has captured.
“Considering (the) Taliban’s dominance over the city of Herat, we draw their serious attention to ensuring the complete safety and health of diplomats and diplomatic facilities,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Twitter.
Western embassies and aid agencies began evacuating civilian staff from Afghanistan on Friday after the Taliban said it had captured Herat and another big city in an advance that has raised fears of the collapse of the U.S.-backed government.
“Our diplomats, like the diplomats of the three other countries present in Herat, are in perfect health and security and have no concerns,” Iranian Foreign Ministry official Rasoul Mousavi earlier said on Twitter.
Iran has long been wary of the Taliban. In 1998 Tehran nearly went to war when Taliban militants martyred at least eight Iranian diplomats and an Iranian journalist at the Iranian consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“The administration of Herat has been taken over by the forces of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban). The consul general, diplomats and staff ... are inside the building. I am in regular contact with them,” Mousavi, director-general for West Asia at the foreign ministry, tweeted earlier.
“The forces administering the city are committed to (ensuring) the complete security of the Consulate General, its diplomats and staff,” Mousavi said without elaborating.
In July, Tehran hosted a meeting of Afghan government representatives and a high-level Taliban delegation and offered to help end the crisis in Afghanistan.
The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) also said Iran’s borders enjoy full security, with the IRGC, army and police forces closely watching and controlling border areas.
“The armed forces are present at the country’s eastern borders with full readiness and vigilance,” Major General Hussein Salami told reporters on Friday morning during a visit to the northeastern city of Mashhad.
Salami reiterated that all of the official and unofficial border crossings in the east of the country are under full control of the Iranian armed forces.
“People should not worry at all, because the scope of our observations has gone beyond the borders and we are monitoring and controlling all the developments in the neighboring country,” he said.
The Taliban militants have waged a massive rampage across the war-torn country, seizing control of multiple strategic cities toward the capital, Kabul.
The militants now control more than half of the country’s 400-odd districts. They took over Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, on Thursday and seized another district capital just 150 kilometers from Kabul.
Herat – about 150 kilometers from the Iranian border – is home to veteran warlord Ismail Khan, who for weeks has been rallying his forces to make a stand against the Taliban and was seen by many as Herat’s last hope.