Seeking Solutions to the Afghan Problem: Tashkent Summit

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Although more than 1.5 years have passed since the date of 31 August 2021, when the United States (USA) withdrew from Afghanistan, the Taliban administration is not recognized by any state. When we look at the attacks of the terrorist organization Devlet’ül Iraq and al-Sham (DEAS), the actions of the Penshir Movement, the economic problems and the efforts of the political opposition, it is seen that the Afghan Problem continues. Undoubtedly, the instabilities centered on Afghanistan are not limited to this country; It also affects the regional states deeply. For this reason, the states of the region want the Afghan Problem to be resolved through peaceful means and are trying to develop a collective stance on this issue.

It is known that the states of the region who want to take a common stance come together at the level of Foreign Ministers from time to time, and from time to time at the level of Heads of Intelligence or Afghanistan Special Representatives. The last meeting held in this direction was held in Tashkent on March 7, 2023. In addition to the host Uzbekistan, representatives from China, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan attended the meeting.[1]

At this point, first of all, it is necessary to mention why the Tashkent administration organized such a meeting. First of all, Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan. Therefore, he is worried that radicalization and terrorism will spread to his territory, especially to the Fergana Valley. In this sense, Uzbekistan, which believes that a method that isolates the Taliban administration from the international community will increase radicalization, believes that de facto relations with the Taliban should be developed by including Afghanistan in international projects and takes steps towards this.

Uzbekistan organized the “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities Conference”, convened in line with the efforts of President Shevket Mirziyoyev, before the second Taliban era began,[2] and it has revealed that it approaches the issue from the perspective of regional security and interregional cooperation. In addition, the Tashkent administration is making an effort to include Afghanistan in international cooperation and projects through the Tirmiz-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabil-Peshawar Railway Project.[3]

On the other hand, Uzbekistan also suggested the establishment of an expert committee within the United Nations (UN) to deal with the Afghan Question, in line with the suggestion of Mr. Mirziyoyev. This has revealed that Taşent approaches regional problems on the axis of the global security architecture.

At the regional level, the Tashkent administration contributes to conference diplomacy and already organizes some meetings. In a sense, Uzbekistan carries out an effective mediation diplomacy for the solution of the Afghan Problem. In this sense, in July 2022, it hosted the meeting titled “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development”, which brought together the officials of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with the leaders of the Taliban, and prevented the issue from falling off the agenda of the international community.[4] Therefore, it is possible to characterize the meeting on March 7, 2023 as the continuation of the mediation diplomacy carried out within the framework of the constructive attitude of Uzbekistan.

It should be emphasized that before moving on to the content of the meeting and the messages given, it would be appropriate to address the actors’ approach to the Afghan Question. First of all, it should be stated that China has a healthy dialogue with the Taliban in terms of de facto relations. As a matter of fact, the Beijing administration, while trying to establish a presence in Afghanistan through various energy and infrastructure projects; On the other hand, it wants to expand the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is planned to be implemented under the Belt and Road Initiative, to include Afghanistan. Therefore, it can be said that the Beijing administration, like Tashkent, is trying to draw Afghanistan to the ground of international cooperation. At the same time, China, DAESH, etc. believes that terrorist organizations will gain power in a conjuncture where the authority of the Taliban disappears. For this reason, it attaches importance to cooperation with the Taliban.

Russia, on the other hand, is the main actor that has intensified its contacts with the Taliban recently. For this reason, the Moscow administration is trying to gain gains through projects in Afghanistan and sees the Taliban as an actor that can cooperate in the context of the fight against terrorism. In addition, Russia is in the desire to prevent the US from returning to the region by keeping good relations with the Taliban. Therefore, Moscow is located on a close line between Tashkent and Beijing.

Undoubtedly, Iran is one of the states most open to cooperation with the Taliban. Because Iran transferred Afghanistan’s Tehran Embassy to the Taliban and a positive communication language was caught between the parties. It can be said that Iran, like Russia, has chosen to get closer to the Taliban on the axis of fighting against DAESH and anti-USA. In this sense, Tehran has a parallel approach with the other capitals mentioned.

Turkmenistan also carries out constructive diplomacy to draw Afghanistan to the ground of international cooperation through the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) Electricity Transmission Line and the Lapis-Lazuli Corridor. In this context, the priority of Ashgabat is regional security within the framework of the prevention of radicalization and the fight against terrorism. Therefore, the Ashgabat administration, which takes care to participate in such meetings that reflect the search for regional cooperation, wishes to overcome the Afghan Problem as soon as possible with humanitarian aid activities. Therefore, the approaches of Tashkenet, Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Ashgabat have great similarities.

One of the countries whose approach draws attention is Pakistan, which is among the participants of the meeting. In fact, traditionally, the Islamabad administration has developed good relations with the Taliban. During the American occupation, many Taliban leaders took refuge in Pakistan. As a matter of fact, the ideological roots of the Taliban are based on the Pakistan-based Diobendi Madrasahs. However, cold winds have been blowing between the parties recently due to the increase in the attacks of the terrorist organization Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan and Islamabad’s criticisms of the Taliban regarding the TTP. At the same time, Pakistan’s rapprochement with the United States in the fight against terrorism and the use of U.S. drones flying over Afghanistan in Pakistani airspace are among the factors that escalate the tension between the parties.

However, Pakistan does not want to lose the Taliban completely. For this reason, various delegations from Pakistan go to Kabul from time to time and meet with the representatives of the Taliban. Therefore, Pakistan advocates peaceful resolution of the Afghan Question. It also contributes to diplomatic efforts towards this. The Tashkent Summit also confirms this. But at this point, there is a detail that should not be ignored. That is, he did not attend the meeting held in Moscow in the recent past on the grounds that Pakistan did not have a Special Envoy for Afghanistan. This indicates that Islamabad has begun to act cautiously in its pursuit of security-based cooperation with Russia in parallel with its rapprochement with Washington.

Tajikistan, on the other hand, is the country that is the most distant to the Taliban among the actors participating in the meeting. It supports the Panshir Movement, which is currently conducting an armed struggle against the Taliban. In this sense, although it is possible to say that the Dushanbe administration has understandable concerns in line with its national interests and threat perceptions, it can be stated that it makes it difficult for the region to develop a collective attitude with its current attitude.

On the other hand, it should be emphasized that the Taliban were not invited to the meeting. This situation shows that despite the general tendency that wants to bring Afghanistan to the ground of cooperation and advocates dialogue with the Taliban, the states in the region expect the Taliban to fulfill the conditions of the international community. Already at the meeting, attention was drawn to the general demand of the international community for the establishment of an inclusive government that respects human rights in Afghanistan.[5] However, the moves that excluded the Taliban at the summit are not just the Taliban; At the same time, the reality of punishing the Afghan people was pointed out and the importance of humanitarian aid was underlined. For this reason, the Taliban officials stated that although they were not invited to the summit, all talks in the interest of Afghans were a positive step.[6]

As a result, Uzbekistan hosted this important meeting in order to contribute to the development of a constructive collective attitude centered on the cooperation of the regional states in the Afghan Question. Although there are some differences between the participating states, holding such a summit demonstrates an important search for a peaceful resolution of the issue. Although the process heralds that the actors will improve their de facto relations with the Taliban, there is no sign of recognition of the Taliban.

[1] “Uzbekistan Gathers Special Envoys of Afghanistan’s Neighbors”, AKI Press,, (Date of Accession: 08.03.2023).

[2]  “Tashkent to Host Conference on Regional Connectivity”, The Asia Today,, (Date of Accession: 07.03.2023).

[3] Doğacan Başaran, “Who is Uncomfortable with Uzbekistan’s Constructive Role in Afghanistan?”, ANKASAM,, (Date of Accession: 08.03.2023).

[4] “نشست تاشکند پایان یافت | آمریکا ذخایر مسدود شده افغانستان را به یک صندوق امانی سپرده است”, Shahrarnews,, (Date of Accession: 08.03.2023).

[5] “Uzbekistan Gathers…”, op.cit.

[6] Ibid.

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.