Uzbekistan: Afghanistan’s Gate to the World

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Afghanistan is a country that has been associated with wars, regime changes, and occupations for nearly 40 years. In this process, various states tried to influence Afghanistan’s politics with imperialist and colonialist policies. As a result of these aims and interests, the country has started to be mentioned for its regional and global problems. It has become a terror basis with the effect of proxy wars in parallel with the changing nature of the war. Because even the terrorist organization the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (DEASH), which has experienced war in Iraq and Syria, has tried to create a new sphere of influence and life for itself through the so-called DEASH-Khorasan Province (ISKP) by taking advantage of the instability in Afghanistan. In particular, the terrorist organization DEASH, which tries to turn the power vacuum in Afghanistan into an opportunity, has become one of the most important sources of threat in the region because Afghanistan was evaluated as geography with significant opportunities by the terrorist organization in question.

In this process, the policies of various states toward Afghanistan caused the crisis in the country to deepen, and the threats increased. An example of this is the invasion of the United States of America (US) and its withdrawal from the country, leaving an administration that cannot stand by themselves.

It is known that the policies carried out against Afghanistan threaten this country and the states of the region. However, Iran, which follows an approach over Shiites/Khazars, seems to have prepared its proxy actor in the face of a possible problem. Because the group of Fatimiyyun, formed by the Shiite Afghans who gained war experience in Syria with the support of Iran, can be used by Tehran in Afghanistan in the future if needed.

On the other hand, it is known that Pakistan has close and deep-rooted relations with the Taliban. It can be said that Western actors, especially France, generally support the Panjshir Movement. Russia and China have also been getting closer to the Taliban at various times within their interests because there are strong claims that Russia and China supported the Taliban before the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At this point, the most important actors that draw attention are the Turkish states in Central Asia. It can be said that Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which are neighbors of Afghanistan, do not follow a policy of supporting any actor because both states want their southern borders to be stable and to establish a strong bond between Central Asia and South Asia. Therefore, both Tashkent and Ashgabat choose to cooperate for a stable Afghanistan and the region, regardless of who the decision makers are in the capital Kabul. One of the most significant proofs of this is that Turkmenistan continued its humanitarian aid activities for Afghanistan in the pre and post-Taliban period. Similarly, Uzbekistan continued her negotiations to construct the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor during the Taliban period.

The actors in question do not have imperial goals for Afghanistan. In particular, Uzbekistan thinks that she can realize joint projects with Afghanistan and thus support the country’s development. Therefore, the Tashkent administration has focused on developing pragmatist relations based on a positive sum logic that will serve the stabilization of Afghanistan.

In addition to its stance, Uzbekistan works to announce the problems of Afghanistan to the world, finding realistic, logical, and suitable solutions for regional dynamics and creating awareness in the international public about Afghanistan. For this, Tashkent uses international conferences as a tool.

Looking historically, these are important examples that demonstrate the constructive efforts of Uzbekistan in the Tashkent Declaration on the peaceful resolution of the Afghan Question in 1999, in December 2017, the “Central Asia+Afghanistan” mechanism, “Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan” on March 26-27, 2018 and conference titled “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” on July 15-16, 2021[1]. Finally, the Tashkent administration organized the international conference titled “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development” on July 26, 2022. The conference held in Tashkent was attended by representatives of states such as Türkiye, Central Asian countries, the USA, India, Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan, as well as international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The conference, also attended by the Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, was an important event in which the problems in Afghanistan and possible solutions were discussed. It can be said that the most crucial emphasis in Muttaqi’s speech and statements to the press, who stated that they want to establish official relations with other countries, is the economic crisis in the country. Even though it is summer, for the time being, winter is coming. Afghanistan, which is struggling with a tremendous humanitarian crisis today, is trying to survive with foreign aid, and economic collapse brings social collapse.

As a result, Uzbekistan has officially turned into Afghanistan’s gateway to the world with her conference diplomacy. In particular, bringing rival states to a conference reveals the diplomatic success of the Tashkent administration. In addition, the conference in question indicates how much importance Uzbekistan attaches to the problems in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, ensuring regional stability and establishing an autonomous Kabul administration does not only concern Afghanistan, Central Asia, and South Asia. Because when the activities of actors such as DAESH are considered, it can be said that radical terrorism is still one of the biggest global threats. Therefore, condemning Afghanistan as an economic and social problems will deepen the terrorist threat rather than solve it.

[1] Mehmet Seyfettin Erol-Emrah Kaya, “Afganistan Barış Süreci: Küresel ve Bölgesel Aktörler”, Uluslararası Kriz ve Siyaset araştırmaları Dergisi, 2021, 5(2), pp. 432-434.

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.