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Uzbekistan’s Diplomacy in Afghanistan

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The dominance of the Taliban in Afghanistan in August 2021 has significantly changed the regional and global balances. The Taliban, which has been in power for more than a year, has not yet been recognized by any country, although it has been trying to gain international recognition and legitimacy. However, many states have established dialogue with the Taliban. However, diplomatic activities of some countries on the integration of Afghanistan into the international system and approach to Taliban administration draw attention. It is seen Uzbekistan, one of the important countries of Central Asia, stands out among these actors. Because the changing regional geopolitics has increased the diplomatic and commercial influence of Central Asian countries on Afghanistan. In this sense, Uzbekistan is a critically important actor in Kabul.

It is seen that the Tashkent administration carries out intense diplomacy on Afghanistan both by increasing the communication between the countries at the regional level and based on international institutional structures. The meeting of Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Vladimir Nurov with United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) deputy president Marcus Putzel on 26 November 2022 is also a stage of the said diplomacy. In the meeting between the two, the establishment of an international negotiation group under the leadership of the United Nations (UN) to meet with the Taliban was discussed. It has been stated that the purpose of establishing an international negotiating group within the UN is “to agree on an algorithm for faster implementation of mutual obligations.”[1] In other words, it is aimed to create an international delegation for negotiation to make faster progress on dialogue with the Taliban.

Uzbekistan’s breakthroughs in Afghanistan are exemplary in the international arena. Tashkent expresses its opinion that the Taliban administration should not be excluded from the international system on different platforms. While doing this, Tashkent emphasizes that it is important for the Taliban to fulfil international demands and establish an inclusive government in the country.

Uzbekistan also supports the rhetoric that the Taliban administration cannot be officially recognized under current conditions. In addition, Tashkent established a key level of communication with the Taliban on many issues. In this sense, it can be said that the Taliban sees Uzbekistan as an important interlocutor to establish external connections and improve communication with international actors. Tashkent has developed a moderate relationship dynamic by focusing on economic cooperation without isolating or marginalizing the Taliban. It is known that mutual contact between countries is provided. Ismatilla Ergashev, Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, also stated that the government works closely with the Taliban and expressed the level of the dialogue established by saying, “We have had solid contacts for a long time, we talk regularly and discuss cooperation.”[2]

Tashkent is important in terms of Afghanistan’s external links as well as the ties established with the Taliban. In this sense, an important activity is demonstrated through conference diplomacy. In the last year, Uzbekistan has played an encouraging and facilitating role in many international meetings. The conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities” held on 15-16 July 2021 sets an example in this sense. The meetings where the Taliban came together with the international community and the constructive role of Tashkent reveal that Uzbekistan is a critical actor in Afghanistan.

It is possible to say that Uzbekistan’s stance on the Taliban administration is shaped based on regional security. Instability in Afghanistan was not only limited to this country but also spread to neighbouring countries and Central Asia as a nearby geography. Therefore, threats posed by the possibility of further conflicts direct the Tashkent administration to diplomatic tools.

On the other hand, in last year when radical elements gained freedom of action, the terrorist organization DEASH and its so-called Khorasan Province (ISKP) increased their activities. This causes a serious increase in the perception of threats in Central Asian countries. Therefore, the establishment of a healthy government in Afghanistan is essential for national and regional security. In this context, it can be said that security has an important place in Uzbekistan’s Afghanistan diplomacy.

Another reason that pushes Uzbekistan to be active in diplomacy is that Afghanistan should be involved in regional projects. Today, Central Asia has become the key geography of many important projects and planning. However, security risks originating from Afghanistan raise doubts about the continuity of projects.

On the other hand, Afghanistan is also important for the progress of projects that will bring great gains. For this reason, the dialogue with the Taliban and the inclusion of the country in regional projects are important for actors such as Uzbekistan. For example, the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor is one of the projects to that Tashkent attaches importance. The project allows Central Asian countries to reach the high seas via Afghanistan.

Another regional project is the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Railway Project. The announcement of the realization of this project was made at an international conference under the leadership of Uzbekistan. This is remarkable in that it shows a link between the value Tashkent attaches to regional development and projects and its diplomacy towards Afghanistan.

As it will be remembered, the Taliban also participated in the “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development International Conference” held in Tashkent on 25-26 July 2022. A delegation led by the Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, representatives of the Government of Uzbekistan and representatives of more than 20 countries attended the meeting. The subjects the focus of the summit were initiatives in the transportation and communication sector, especially the construction of the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Railway Line.[3]

Among the objectives of Uzbekistan within the scope of regional projects is the strategy of securing the trade route from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s ports in the Indian Ocean.[4] In line with this goal, we can talk about Uzbekistan which deepens the communication between the West and Afghanistan. Assistance is needed for the realization of infrastructure projects and the integration of Afghanistan. It can be stated that the Tashkent administration plays a constructive and facilitating role in this regard.

In addition, Uzbekistan plays a strategic role in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. This factor brings the Tashkent administration to the forefront with the initiative it has taken in Afghanistan-based diplomacy activities. Moreover, Tashkent has taken steps to facilitate the delivery of such aid, as well as to increase it further. It is known that Uzbekistan sent a delegation to Washington to provide more aid to Afghanistan. Efforts are also being made for greater engagement with the Taliban.[5]

Based on all this information, it is possible to talk about an Uzbekistan that leads and hosts international meetings, plays a facilitating role in aid to Afghanistan, and aims to increase the communication of the Taliban administration with international actors. The issues increase Tashkent’s international image and visibility.

As a result, it is possible to say that Uzbekistan sees Afghanistan as an opportunity for regional integration. At the same time, it can be said that Tashkent has taken steps to strengthen its global image, as it acts as an effective actor in the solution to the Afghanistan Problem. Therefore, it can be predicted that Tashkent will maintain its current stance and will continue to make a name for itself with its effectiveness in Afghanistan.


[1] “UN Official Concludes Meeting with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan Leaders on Afghanistan”, Afintl, https://www.afintl.com/en/202211262624, (Date of Accession: 26.11.2022).

[2]  “Uzbekistan Seeks to Engage Taliban Without Alienating West”,”, VOA News, https://www.voanews.com/a/uzbekistan-seeks-to-engage-taliban-without-alienating-west/6557338.html, (Date of Accession: 26.11.2022).

[3] “Uzbekistan-Afghanistan: A project for the construction of a railway line was discussed”, Uz Daily, https://www.uzdaily.uz/en/post/74516, (Date of Accession: 26.11.2022).

[4] “Uzbekistan Seeks to Engage Taliban Without Alienating West”, op. cit.

[5] Ibid.

Şeyma KIZILAY
Şeyma KIZILAY, 2016 yılında Erciyes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2019 yılında Kırşehir Ahi Evran Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası İlişkilerde Ulus İnşası Bağlamında Irak Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora eğitimine Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda devam eden Kızılay, tez aşamasındadır. Başlıca çalışma alanları; güvenlik, terörizm, Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Kızılay, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede Arapça bilmektedir.