A gunfight broke out between Iranian border guards and Taliban fighters along the border between Iran and Afghanistan this weekend. The fighting killed three people in the biggest escalation between the two countries over water. And the Taliban brought out a big gun to help.
Video posted to social media offered an up-close view of the skirmish, inside an unexpected place: a Humvee kitted out with an M240 machine gun. If that looks familiar it’s because those are some of the pieces of military equipment captured by the Taliban, now put into use for fighting other parties.
Other accounts shared online reported heavy machine gun fire, as well as purported use of mortars and other explosives. Outside of the Humvee, Taliban fighters were spotted using AK-style rifles and RPGs to attack the Iranian position on the border.
At least three people are confirmed to have died in Saturday’s gunfight, although accounts vary on how many belonged to each side. The Taliban claimed at least one of its fighters was killed, while an Iranian paper said all deaths were on Iran’s side, per al-Jazeera. The fighting took place in the Nimroz province of Afghanistan. As a result, the border crossing between Milak and Zaranj in Iran and Afghanistan, respectively, closed (it was not where the fighting took place). Both nations accused the other of starting the gunfight.
The fighting between the two nations broke out amid political fights over water rights. Drought has been a serious issue in Afghanistan for the last three years. The Helmand River flows from Afghanistan into Iran and is dammed on the Afghan side. Earlier in May, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called on the Taliban not to restrict the flow of water.
More than a year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the group is using all kinds of seized American and NATO weapons.
It’s not a new development. The Taliban regularly used captured American-provided equipment when fighting the U.S.-backed government. In the later years of the war, special Taliban units were spotted wearing American-style driving Humvees and even wielding weapons belonging to special operations units. During the fall of Kabul in 2021, Los Angeles Times reporter Nabih Bulos captured footage of Taliban fighters in the city dressed like special operations forces.
When the U.S.-backed government fell and the Afghan security forces collapsed, the Taliban got its hand on a lot of leftover weapons and equipment. A 2022 report from the Pentagon’s lead inspector general for Operation Enduring Sentinel and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel found that approximately $7.12 billion in equipment was still in the country when the Taliban took over. That included everything from rifles to aircraft.
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