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Afghanistan Meeting in Tashkent: What is Uzbekistan Aiming For?

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Even though the United States (USA) has withdrawn from Afghanistan, both due to the economic and humanitarian crisis in the country in question and due to the Taliban’s failure to fulfill its commitments to the international community, Afghanistan continues to be on the agenda of the international community. However, as a result of the outbreak of the Ukrainian Crisis, the focus of international public opinion has changed and the world has begun to forget the developments centered on Afghanistan. Precisely in this environment, Uzbekistan hosted a conference where the parties openly shared their views by bringing the Afghanistan Problem to the agenda of the international community. In addition, Uzbekistan, as the Term President of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), also brought together the foreign ministers of the member states and arranged for the Taliban delegation to meet with these ministers.

Although the Tashkent administration describes the conference in question as a continuation of the conferences held in 2018 and 2021, there are several reasons why it is taking such an initiative. The first of these is the threat it perceives from Afghanistan in relation to border security. As it is known, in the days where Afganistan is once again under control of Taliban, the so-called Khorasan Province (ISKP) of the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (DAESH) has conducted a terror attack near Kabul airport and killed tens of Afghan citizens and 13 American soldiers. In the last 11 months, ISKP has been carrying out terrorist acts in Afghanistan and has been firing rockets at neighboring states using the territory of this country. As a matter of fact, it is known that there are Uzbek radical elements in the ranks of the terrorist organization ISKP.

In addition to the threat of terrorism, the new Tashkent administration pursues the implementation of the economic projects it has put forward through Afghanistan. In this context, Uzbekistan wants the Tirmiz-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul railway to be built. Uzbekistan is also concerned about the instability in Afghanistan. Because the Taliban rule is not recognized by the international community, and as a result, the Afghan economy is being dragged into collapse. For this reason, the Afghan people are facing a severe humanitarian crisis.

The deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan leads to an increase in terrorism and radicalism, as well as drug and arms trafficking. It worsens the regional security environment. Moreover, the situation in question also leads to migration movements from Afghanistan to neighboring countries. Of course, Uzbekistan has some concerns about these processes due to the fact that it is a neighbor of Afghanistan.

Finally, Uzbekistan, although it does not officially recognize the Taliban, as a state that establishes de facto relations with the organization, wants to find a solution to the Afghanistan Problem by bringing the international community and the Taliban together.

In this context, at the meeting called “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development” held in Tashkent; Türkiye, England, Iran, Italy, Spain, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, China, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, USA, Japan, European Union, United Nations (UN), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the representatives of international financial institutions came together to discuss the developments in Afghanistan.[1] The fact that all parties interested in the Afghanistan Question were gathered under one roof and that a delegation was officially invited under the leadership of the Taliban Government’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki reveals the importance of the conference. However, with its statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan emphasized that the Taliban delegation’s participation in the conference does not mean recognition.

The parties participating in the meeting revealed their approaches towards Afghanistan. Muttaki, on the other hand, stated that the Taliban had put an end to drug trafficking and corruption by ensuring security in Afghanistan. In addition, Muttaki demanded that the US release Afghanistan’s national reserves and lift sanctions.[2] In their assessment of the issue, Russian officials described the US blocking of Afghanistan’s national reserves as “theft”, while US representatives stressed the importance of providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people and stated that they would negotiate with the Taliban about the release of Afghanistan’s national reserves.[3]

At the end of the meeting, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan published a 12-point statement. In the statement, the Taliban delegation was described as representatives of the Interim Government of Afghanistan and it was emphasized that Muttaki’s statement “We will not allow Afghanistan’s lands to be used against other states within the scope of the Doha Agreement” was warmly welcomed by the participants of the meeting. It was pointed out that in order to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan, it is necessary to revive the economy and involve the country in regional projects.

Along with these, demands such as the establishment of a pluralistic government, respect for human rights and ensuring girls’ right to education were underlined in order to ensure national peace in Afghanistan. Finally, a call was made to release Afghanistan’s national reserves and use them for the benefit of the Afghan people.[4]

The conference is remarkable in several respects. First of all, the Taliban delegation was officially invited to the conference and although the Taliban Government was not recognized, it was accepted by the international community as an interlocutor. For this reason, the Taliban delegation shared its 11-month activities with the participants and its commitment to fight against terrorist organizations was taken into account.

On the other hand, according to allegations, the US and Taliban delegations meeting in Tashkent, have come close to an agreement on transferring some of the blocked Afghanistan reserves to a third state as a “trust fund” and giving it to the Afghan people from there. However, it has also been claimed that the Taliban objected to a third actor gaining control over the fund.

Another remarkable point is the emphasis on the establishment of a government that is inclusive, respects human and women’s rights, fights terrorism and distances itself from terrorism in order to ensure national peace in Afghanistan.

Finally, it can be said that the issues of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people and Afghanistan’s participation in regional projects have come to the fore. As a matter of fact, in the published statement, reference was made to the Tirmiz-Mazar-i-Sharfi-Kabul-Pishaver Railway Project of Uzbekistan. Moreover, Yue Xiaoyong, China’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, stated that he supports these projects.

In conclusion, the Tashkent Conference is an important platform for the international community and the Taliban to come together. While Uzbekistan has given the message that it will not recognize the Taliban without the support of global actors and regional states, even if it improves its relations with the Taliban, it also showed that it is in favor of a peaceful resolution of the Afghan Problem by organizing the conference in question.

[1] “نشست تاشکند پایان یافت | آمریکا ذخایر مسدود شده افغانستان را به یک صندوق امانی سپرده است”, Shahrarnews, https://l24.im/G5zSnw, (Date of Accession: 28.07.2022).

[2] “طالبان در کنفرانس تاشکند خواستار رفع تحریم‌های امریکا شدند”, VOA, https://www.darivoa.com/a/the-tashkent-international-conference-on-afghanistan-has-started/6673937.html, (Date of Accesion: 28.07.2022).

[3] “نماینده روسیه مسدود نگهداشتن دارایی‌های افغانستان در امریکا را “دزدی” خواند”, Afintl, https://www.afintl.com/202207263588, (Date of Accession: 28.07.2022).

[4] “تأکید نشست تاشکند بر آزادسازی دارایی‌های افغانستان در خارج”, Farsnews, https://l24.im/Wif, (Date of Accession: 28.07.2022).

Ahmad Khan DAWLATYAR
Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar, 2013 yılında Kunduz Üniversitesi Hukuk ve Siyaset Bilimi Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi Anabilim Dalı’nda “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti ve Afganistan İslam Cumhuriyeti Anayasalarında Güçler Ayrılığı İlkesi Üzerine Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” başlıklı teziyle 2019 yılında almıştır. Çeşitli bilimsel etkinliklere katılan Dawlatyar, Afganistan sorunuyla ilgili bildiriler ve makaleler sunmuştur. Bu kapsamda “Afganistan Sorununun Dini ve İdeolojik Nedenleri” başlıklı sunumu yayınlanmıştır. Halihazırda Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. ANKASAM bünyesinde yürütülen çalışmalara katkıda bulunan Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Dawlatyar, anadil seviyesinde Farsça, Özbekçe, Türkçe ve Peştunca dillerine hakimdir. Ayrıca orta düzeyde İngilizce bilmektedir.