Iraq opens embassy in Afghan capital

Iraq’s ambassador to Afghanistan celebrated the opening its new embassy Wednesday in Kabul, saying it will strengthen diplomatic relations between the two countries that date to the 1930s and assist Afghans who want to visit holy sites in Iraq.

“Iraqis and Afghans are almost brothers,” Ambassador Qais Subhi al-Yacoubi said at the opening. “Whenever I go on the street, people know that I’m Iraqi. Everyone welcomes me so I never feel that I am here as a guest. I am among my brothers and my friends. The relationship is not only Iraqi-Afghani, it is also Arab-Afghani and Islamic-Islamic and before everything else, we are Muslim.

The Afghan government has said it also has plans to re-open its embassy in Baghdad, as it tries to expand and deepen its links to the Muslim world. Iraq broke relations after the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, but has had relations with the current government of Afghanistan for years.

The new Iraqi embassy in Kabul eventually will have a consular section to assist Afghans who want to visit Iraq, which is home to religious shrines important to Shiite Muslims around the world.

“We have thousands and thousands of Afghans who want to go to Iraq,” he said. “Iraq is full of holy shrines from north to south. … Our consular section will facilitate that. It will take some time, but we are working quickly.”
Many Muslims, including Afghans, visit Iraq during Ashoura, the yearly mourning period in which Shiites remember the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein, in a battle in the central city of Karbala.