Meryem Betül KEBAP
Re-written by Sami BURGAZ
With the announcement of US withdrawal from Afghanistan by the Biden Administration, the Taliban has made important gains which culminated with the complete takeover of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
Such a swift change has a high probability of deeply affecting Central Asian states due to the geographical proximity of Afghanistan.
Certain experts consider that the situation in Afghanistan will result in a domino effect in the regional states. Thus Central Asian states are concerned among others about refugee flow as well as the orientation of extremist groups along their borders, will all are factors of instability. Some of them aim to establish a good relationship and economic partnership with the new Afghanistan political reality, while some of them stand against the Taliban, expressing the necessity to form a government based on public consensus.
Kazakhstan is closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and has made several calls regarding the formation of an inclusive government that includes all parties in order to establish peace and internal stability in Afghanistan.
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry published a statement on 19 August stating that Kazakhstan supports the decision of the UN Security Council regarding Afghanistan:
“(…) We support the statement of the UN Security Council on the creation of an inclusive and representative government, respect for the rights of national minorities and women, preventing the presence of groups that pose a threat to other states, and compliance with international law. The implementation of these provisions should become a necessary condition for starting a dialogue with the new government of Afghanistan.”
On the other hand, Kazakhstan is concerned about extremist groups such Al-Qaida, ISIS-K gaining ground in Afghanistan following US withdrawal. Thus, Kazakhstan has taken several precautions to avert such implicit risks. President Tokayev has met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and has instructed the Kazakh national army to mobilise against potential security threats.
“In the context of the aggravation of the international situation, our power structures should be maximally mobilized, (…) We see growing concern and anxiety in society about the situation in Afghanistan. The events taking place in this country do not pose a direct threat to Kazakhstan, but, of course, create certain risks. Therefore, we must closely monitor the development of the situation and be ready to adequately respond to any challenges.”
In addition, the instability in Afghanistan negatively impacts Kazakhstan in terms of economic relations since Afghanistan is one of largest markets for grain exports of Kazakhstan.
With the help of Moscow, Kyrgyzstan has heightened its military presence along the Afhgan border. The Taliban has promised to respect the border sovereignty of the regional states, but Bishkek is still worried about the potential of other terrorist groups violating its boundaries. Ruslan Kazakbayev stated that sleeper cells belonging to terror groups such as Al-Qaida and ISIS may act to spread their ideology in the region. For this reason, Kyrgyzstan will continue to increase its military precautions. Kazakbayev also said that Taliban’s takeover did not cause instability in the region:
“When we talk about sleeper cells, then this is not about the Taliban,” he said. “The leadership of the Taliban has previously stated more than once that it is focused only on the internal agenda and has no plans for expansion outside the country.”
Nonetheless, military exercises will be held on 7-9 September in Kyrgyzstan with the participation of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) members. The drill will focus on destroying terrorist groups that are deployed in the territories of the CSTO members.
Uzbekistan’s main concern is the security of its border with Afghanistan. As such, Tashkent has established contact with the members of the Taliban in order to ensure that its borders are secure. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Uzbekistan released a statement about the violation of border security stating that;
“Uzbekistan is in close contact with members of the Taliban movement on issues related to border protection and efforts to preserve calm in border areas(…) We also firmly declare that attempts to violate the state border will be met with a tough response,” the ministry announced.
On the other hand, by expressing Uzbekistan’s wish for a peaceful transition in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also clarified that their diplomatic missions would continue to operate in Afghanistan.
In addition, the ministry emphasised that Uzbekistan is ready for an amicable relationship with Afghanistan with a repetition on Tashkent’s decision on not interfering to the internal affairs of the neighbouring states.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that Taliban is the fact of the Afghan society and the problems of Afghanistan cannot be solved by sheer power. It also underlined that it supports the formation of a government an inclusive government.
“The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan and we can say that they completely control the country, (…) We support the formation of a government in Afghanistan that takes into account the interests of all political forces and achieves them through peaceful negotiations. We have always distanced ourselves form the idea that the Afghan problem can be solved by force in Afghanistan,” Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister Farhod Arziyev said.
Tajikistan is located on the northern border of Afghanistan and as such is likely to be affected by the recent developments in Afghanistan. Similar to other neighbouring nations, Dushanbe is also worried about the flow of refugees and extremist groups. The other security concern of Tajikistan is an increase in cross-border drug smuggling.
President Emomali Rahmon stated that Tajikistan will not recognize any Afghan governments which is formed without public consensus and/or by excluding any minority.
The President said, “Tajikistan will not recognize any other government that is formed in this country through oppression, without taking into account the position of the entire Afghan people, especially all its minorities” and “stressed that Tajiks have a worthy place in the future government of Afghanistan.”
Most importantly, the Panjshir Valley is a subject of contention between the Taliban and Tajikistan. Panjshir which is in the northern Afghanistan is mainly occupied by ethnic Tajiks. Hence, Taliban’s ultimate takeover of Afghanistan has caused worries in the region. As Tajikistan has close links with people of Panjshir , it strictly refuses any government that exclude any minorities.
It is important to note that peace negotiations are ongoing in the region between the two, but the parties seem ready for war if negotiations fail.
“We do have enough military personnel and equipment but we can fight for our values and people if our negotiations won’t work out. Even if we get defeated, the world would know we fought for our people,” said Ahmad Massoud who is the the leader of Resistance 2 – an anti-Taliban group.
Turkmenistan officials have met with Taliban members following the takeover of Kabul and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that a series of “positively and constructive” meetings were held and stressed about the friendly nature of relations between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.
Ashgabat has immense interests in the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI) natural gas pipeline as well as road and railways project in the region. As such Taliban has assured that these investments will be protected, so Turkmenistan taken a pragmatic stance towards the Taliban.
“Afghanistan is a bridge between Central Asia and South Asia,” he said, talking about how the interests of “connectivity” would be furthered by ensuring the completion not just of the TAPI pipeline, but also road and railways projects. “We hope … [we] are going to start them.” Muhammed Suhail Shaheen, a representative for the Taliban” said.
In addition, Turkmenistan is continuing its export of electricity to Afghanistan. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Turkmenistan stated that the supply electricity to all northern cities as well as some western cities of Afghanistan was ongoing without any major hindrance.