Iran, Afghanistan announce cooperation against IS

TEHRAN: Afghanistan and Iran announced on Sunday plans for enhanced security cooperation to combat threats from the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group, including possible joint military operations.

Standing alongside visiting Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the tumult hitting the region meant intelligence must be shared.

His comments came after IS, which holds swathes of Syria and Iraq, said it was responsible for a suicide bombing in Afghanistan`s eastern city of Jalalabad which 1(illed 33 people.

Mr Ghani`s two-day visit to Iran is his first since taking over reins of government from Hamid Karzai in September, and he is accompanied on the trip by his foreign minister and minister for oil and mines.

The Afghan president has repeatedly raised the prospect of IS making inroads into his country, though the militant group has never formally acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan.

Mr Ghani said IS presented `a serious danger and different form of terrorism`.

`People die daily, we face barbarism,` he said at a joint press conference, prompting Mr Rouhani to nod in agreement. `And without greater cooperation a macabre phenomenon such as Daesh cannot be contained,` he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Mr Rouhani said: `We have agreed to cooperate furtherin the nght against ter-rorism, violence and extremism in the region, especially in border regions.

`We need intelligence sharing and, if necessary, cooperation in operations because the problems that exist are not restricted and gradually spread throughout the region, affecting everyone.

The two leaders did not specify further what they thought could be done to confront IS, which swept into Iraq from Syria last June. The group holds Mosul, Iraq`s second city.

Iran has been central in the Baghdad government`s fight against IS, coordinating Shia militias and providing military advisers from its powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The largest such operation saw IS cleared early this month from Tikrit, a city north of Baghdad and the childhood home of executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban have seen defections to IS in recent months, with some voicing their disaffection with their supreme leader Mullah Omar who has not been seen in almost 14 years.

A person purporting to be an IS spokesman said in a call that the group was behind the Jalalabad bombing. An online post allegedly from IS made the same claim, but could not be verified.

Iran and Afghanistan have close ties. In 2001, Tehran reportedly cooperated with Washington in a US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime from power in Kabul.-AFP

Published in Dawn