Reports coming out of Syria today, and based primarily on an unauthenticated video of an Afghan national captured by Syrian rebels, claim that Afghans, including former Taliban fighters, are being hired by Iranians to go to Syria to fight.
The man in the video claims to be an Afghan immigrant to Iran, and says he was paid $500 a month to go to Syria and fight alongside the Iranian-backed Assad government against rebel factions, including ISIS.
The report further claims that the recruited mercenaries include former Taliban who left the Afghan insurgency over some unspecified dispute. It was unclear who in Iran is actually paying them, and whether it’s an official program or just an effort by Iranian Shi’ites trying to swing the war back in favor of Assad’s forces.
The sectarian divide makes the story an extremely complex one, as the Sunni Taliban is ideologically aligned with the Syrian rebels, not the Shi’ite Iranian government.
Indeed, the former Taliban insisted they didn’t know much specifically about the Taliban, but that they were open to sitting down and talking with them, which suggests the mercenaries could pretty quickly switch sides.
That’s doubly the case because in addition to a more compatible ideology, cash-rich ISIS could readily pay the mercenaries to join their side, and it seems like right now it is only the prospect of a steady paycheck that is luring these Afghans to fight.