Muhammad Asif Noor

Right as the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul and the tumultuous end of US military operation in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan a regional leader hosted a two-day high-level summit on Afghanistan. The event was meant to deliberate on the humanitarian crisis and socio-economic development in Afghanistan.

Delegates from nearly thirty countries participated in a conference titled “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development.” The summit was attended by delegates of the European Union, Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asian Republics, and other stakeholders.

Tashkent summit is not a stand-alone conference but makes a place in a series of dialogues on Afghan issues since the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of the US from Afghan soil.

Tashkent has played a role of an elder brother to take the lead in building consensus amongst the stakeholders to resolve the humanitarian crisis and support Afghanistan for its development.

Uzbekistan, like other immediate Afghan neighbors, feels a range of non-traditional threats due to border proximity and is expected to inclusively raise the issue with major stakeholders in a successful attempt.

As the winter is approaching and so does the ISIS threat, the crisis is looming large with growing food insecurity and the rise of severe humanitarian crisis.

The meeting was the first after such a high level where the Afghan Taliban participated with other European members, the US, and allies. The meeting was a point where the new dimensions were approached and there was a greater chance that the sides may have met and discussed.

Another important aspect is that earlier such consultation with Taliban was used to take place in Qatar whereas this was the first time that Tashkent Summit such sidelines meeting were expected.

This conference is also another timely initiative by Uzbekistan following the 4th high-level Consultative Meeting of Central Asian leaders in Kyrgyzstan where parties took due time to discuss managing and supporting Afghanistan and rising insecurities in the region.

This meeting was an important one where the role of outside powers and their influence was demonized. Afghan neighbors are realizing that the only just and lasting solution lies in giving Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solutions.

The focus of international delegates including the European Union, US, and other allies was  to find ways to reduce the impact of 20 years old war on future Afghan generations.

It is also an interesting fact that this time around Afghan delegation was not only invited but also given the opportunity to speak and share their views during the summit.

Afghan delegate took the opportunity to apprise the audience of their firm control over Afghan territory and call on the global community to politically engage the Taliban saying ‘we are ready to have engagement with world countries.

All the concerned parties including its immediate neighbors have resorted to ‘wait and watch policy, but it is about time the world decides to talk about recognition. The delegation was led by the Acting FM of Afghanistan Amir Khan Muttaqi who explained the challenges for the socio-economic Afghan people.

The poverty level in Afghanistan has sharply increased post-American withdrawal and especially after the USA-led sanction regime against the Taliban.

It is worth mentioning here that the Afghan government presented an indigenous budget relying on local resources, but they are insufficient to guarantee sustainability. The US President withheld reserves of the Afghan government with the treasury creating further financial challenges in Afghanistan.

Despite constraints, the Taliban deserves credit for not retiring but retaining all employees of the previous regime in public services. Taliban didn’t pursue civilians and military officers to avenge their fight before getting into government. The Afghan Taliban further took stern measures to maintain law and order in the society, but ISIS remains a threat at the large regional level.

The entire international community agreed on extending unwavering support to humanitarian causes in Afghanistan and continued to engage with the Taliban government at multiple levels.

The international community raised concerns about gender-based violence, human rights, and fundamental liberties of all communities in Afghanistan and asked the Taliban to ensure the civil liberties of Afghans including minorities.

The major concern of major powers remains intact; the Afghan soil must not be used against any state in the world to which the Afghan Taliban positively respond.

By its mandate and scope of it, this conference appears to be a significant development in the region because financially and socially collapsing Afghanistan serves no purpose for anyone in the region.

All of its neighbors in coordination with external powers are taking positive steps of gradual engagement with the Taliban. The international community unanimously agreed to keep supporting Afghanistan on issues of security, health, food, and shelter.

There should be lasting peace in Afghanistan and Afghans should lead their destiny into their own hands with the support of their neighbors and the world community.

*The writer is the Director Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies