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Who is Uncomfortable with Uzbekistan’s Constructive Role in Afghanistan?

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The so-called Emirate of Khorasan (ISKP) by the terrorist organization DEASH is one of the leading actors that destabilize the country and threaten the regional security environment beyond Afghanistan, due to its attacks in Afghanistan. However, in the face of the Afghan Problem, the regional states are developing a constructive attitude based on cooperation. For this reason, the terrorist organization DEASH, in a sense, has an attitude that targets the relations developed by the Taliban with the region, especially with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Because, Tashkent and Ashgabat are actors that come to the fore both with their constructive diplomacy understanding that puts people at the center of the solution of the Afghan Problem and with the projects they have developed in order to attract Afghanistan to international cooperation.

The peaceful diplomacy understanding of Turkmenistan’s policy towards Afghanistan has been covered in detail in the analyzes previously published by Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM). Especially the analysis titled “Turkmenistan’s Peaceful and Humanitarian Diplomacy in Afghanistan” written by President of ANKASAM Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol[1] can be described as an extremely eye-opening study in terms of understanding the subject. In this analysis, the constructive attitude of Uzbekistan in Afghan policy and in this context, the efforts of the terrorist organization DEASH to destabilize Uzbekistan-Taliban relations are mentioned. Because the President of Uzbekistan, Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in his speech at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Samarkand Summit held on September 15-16, 2022, stated that Uzbekistan favors peace and stability in Afghanistan, and that imposing sanctions on Afghanistan will increase extremism in the country. He said that Tashkent attaches importance to developing a constructive dialogue with Kabul.[2] This once again brought up the constructive role of Uzbekistan in the Afghan Problem.

As it is known, the terrorist organization DAESH emerged in the Syrian Civil War and reached an important field dominance in Syria and Iraq for a while. In this process, in parallel with the global caliphate claim of the DEASH terrorist organization, there have been groups from various geographies of the world joining the terrorist organization DEASH. One of them is ISKP, which emerged when various regional terrorist organizations united and gave allegiance to the DEASH terrorist organization.

At this point, the reality that terrorist organizations are used as proxy actors in the struggle between great powers should not be ignored. At the same time, it is useful to remember the images showing that terrorist elements affiliated with DAESH in Syria and Iraq were transported to Afghanistan under American escort. Because, in today’s conjuncture, where the global power struggle has shifted from the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific geography, it is seen that the proxy wars are also desired to be moved to the South Asia-Central Asia line. In fact, it is necessary to read the withdrawal of the United States (US) from Afghanistan from this perspective.

It can be said that the goal of destabilizing two important rivals lies in the background of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. One of these competitors is China; the other is Russia. The Washington administration thought that terrorism and radicalization could spread to China through the Wakhan Corridor, if the power vacuum that will occur during the withdrawal process is filled by radical terrorist organizations.

Undoubtedly, the second country that the US wants to destabilize is Russia. The fact that the terrorist organization DEASH includes groups that are seen as terrorist organizations by the Central Asian states means that the activities of the organization in question may also create instability in Central Asia. In such a case, it should be taken into account that things will get out of control in the Fergana Valley and that the proxy wars may evolve into a regional war in which Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will be directly involved. In this scenario, there is the possibility of regional war destabilizing Russia and the possibility of radicalization and terrorism spreading to Russian Muslims through the Afghanistan-Central Asia line. Therefore, it can be said that in the global power struggle, proxy wars and terrorism are desired to be moved to a new geography including Pakistan, China, Russia and Central Asian countries through Afghanistan.

Moreover, the West’s approach that aims to isolate the Taliban, and therefore Afghanistan, from the international community can be interpreted as an attempt to radicalize the Taliban. However, it should be emphasized that the states of the region are aware of the game being played. For this reason, the regional states are trying to draw the Taliban to the ground of international cooperation and adopt a constructive stance that includes Afghanistan in the projects. Uzbekistan is at the forefront of the states that have internalized this approach.

The basis of the constructive role of the Tashkent administration in the Afghan Problem is the concern that the radicalization in the region may spread to the Fergana Valley. Because there is a possibility that a crisis based in Fergana will drag Uzbekistan into the war.[3] This risk is the main reason why Tashkent has a de-facto relationship with the Taliban. In addition, it is known that various groups recognized as terrorist organizations by the Tashkent administration have also declared allegiance to ISKP. Therefore, Tashkent thinks that the rise of radicalization in Afghanistan may destabilize Uzbekistan.

In this context, Uzbekistan is making an active effort to solve the Afghan Problem. The most concrete example of this effort is the “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities Conference” held in Tashkent before the Taliban came to power.[4] The conference in question, which shows that Mr. Mirziyoyev took the initiative in building regional peace, can be expressed as an important development in terms of directing many states to act collectively.

Tashkent maintained this constructive stance during the Taliban rule. In this sense, it should be emphasized that public diplomacy, which puts people in the center, has a critical place in Uzbekistan’s approach to Afghanistan. In addition, Uzbekistan, which is a bridge that provides a connection between Central Asia and South Asia, strives to include Afghanistan in international cooperation and projects through the Tirmiz-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar Railway Project.[5]

In this conjuncture, the ISKP terrorist organization wishes to damage the credibility of the Taliban in the eyes of Afghanistan’s neighbors. However, the Uzbek state mind is aware of this scenario being constructed in Afghanistan, which is the main playground of the “New Great Game.” As a matter of fact, this awareness was reflected in Mirziyoyev’s speech at the SCO Leaders’ Summit in Samarkand on 15-16 September 2022, as stated above.

As a result, today, when proxy wars have shifted from the Middle East to the Central Asia-South Asia line, the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan has brought about a power vacuum in the country. In this sense, various terrorist organizations, especially the terrorist organization DEASH, have focused on filling the said power vacuum. The US plan is to increase instability in the region. The terrorist organization ISKP, on the other hand, is the main actor that raises the tension in the region with its actions. In this sense, the terrorist organization ISKP tries to sabotage the de facto relations on the Uzbekistan-Taliban line in particular and the search for regional cooperation, security, peace and prosperity in general.


[1] Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, “Türkmenistan’ın Afganistan’daki Barışçıl ve İnsani Diplomasisi”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/turkmenistanin-afganistandaki-bariscil-ve-insani-diplomasisi/, (Date of Accession: 20.09.2022).

[2] “Uzbek President Calls for Constructive Contact With Kabul”, Tolonews, , (Date of Accession: 18.09.2022

[3] Mehmet Seyfettin Erol-Doğacan Başaran, “Afganistan Merkezli Gelişmelerin Türkiye ve Türk Dünyası Jeopolitiğine Etkileri”, Demokrasi Platformu, 10(35), 2021, s. 22.

[4] “Tashkent to Host Conference on Regional Connectivity”, The Asia Today, https://theasiatoday.org/news/central-asia/conference-titled-central-andsouth-asia-regional-connectivity-challenges-and-opportunities-will-beheld-in-tashkent/, (Date of Accession: 21.10.2021).

[5] Emrah Kaya, “Özbekistan Dış Politikasında Yumuşak Güç Uygulamaları ve Afganistan”, ANKASAM, Özbekistan Dış Politikasında Yumuşak Güç Uygulamaları ve Afganistan, (Date of Accession: 21.04.2022).

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.