The Iranian authorities announced closing the Milk port on Friday, one of its most important border and trade outlets with Afghanistan. This follows the exodus of Afghans from the city of Zaranj, the capital of the Nimroz province, which has fallen into the hands of the hard-line Taliban movement.
Mohammad Hadi Marashi, the provincial deputy governor for security affairs in Sistan and Baluchestan, told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that the border between Iran and Afghanistan in the Milk District of the province has been closed due to ongoing battles in the city of Zaranj, near the Iranian border.
Marashi added: "The city of Zaranj in Afghanistan fell last night and the Taliban movement controlled most of the city's areas, before they retreated after military reinforcements arrived at the city."
The Iranian official indicated: "The situation on the border is calm at the moment." He noted: "In order to protect national interests, the region's army, border forces and police are fully stationed in the border area and on Ibrahim Bridge to monitor any possible Afghan movements."
Iran has three border ports with Afghanistan: the Dogaron port (one of the most important commercial and travelling ports between Iran and Afghanistan), which the Taliban took control over on 8 July, and the Islam Qala port (120 kilometres from the Afghan city of Herat). The Islam Qala port is an important transit route between the two countries, linking the Herat district to the Razavi Khorasan province, north-eastern Iran.
Similarly, the Nimroz province (south-western Afghanistan) is the only area in Afghanistan that borders Iran and Pakistan. The border between Afghanistan and Iran stretches over 921 kilometres.
Last year, Iran's exports to Afghanistan amounted to around $4 billion, while Afghanistan's exports to Iran were estimated at only $40 to 50 million.
The Afghan exodus
As the military conflict intensified in western Afghanistan, Afghan families fled to the Iranian border areas on Friday night.
Eghtesad Online published a video showing Afghan families flowing towards the Iranian border, reporting that "a large number of Afghan officials and senior officers in the military forces" were among the displaced families entering Iranian territory.
Director-General of Foreign Ministry's West Asia Department Rasoul Mousavi posted on Twitter after displaying pictures of Afghan refugees moving into Iran: "Painful events are taking place. Hundreds of people walking towards the Iranian border after the Taliban attack on Zaranj. You have to think!"
Press reports revealed that the Afghan city of Herat, adjacent to the eastern border of Iran, "recently witnessed heavy clashes," adding that Taliban forces "killed civilians and looted people's properties" in the areas they took over.
With the foreign forces starting to withdraw from Afghanistan in recent months, the Taliban took control of large areas of the country, while attempting in recent days to besiege three Afghan regional capitals, including Herat and Kandahar.