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Saudi Arabia and Iran Face Off in Afghanistan

The Threat of a Proxy War

Afghan National Army officers march during a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre in Afghanistan in this, October 7, 2015. Ahmad Masood / Reuters

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s ongoing proxy war in the Middle East is never far from the headlines. The two countries have sparked or exacerbated various conflicts throughout the region, including in Syria and Yemen, two of the most complex and devastating wars in recent history. But another battle between the two regional powerhouses has gone relatively unnoticed, even though it could further destabilize a key strategic theater for the West: Afghanistan.

Since entering Afghanistan nearly 15 years ago, NATO has committed thousands of troops and billions of dollars to the country. Today, 13,000 NATO troops remain there, and this summer, NATO committed to continue funding Afghan forces until 2020.

But despite all these efforts, Afghanistan remains highly volatile, with a weak central government and various insurgency groups that maintain considerable influence in the country. Many of these groups have a long history of working with Tehran or Riyadh and sometimes both. Although

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