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Taliban’s Diplomatic Presence Growing in Central Asia

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Taliban’s Diplomatic Presence Growing in Central Asia

The Taliban have gained access to some of the erstwhile Afghan Republic’s embassies and consulates in Central Asia. The consulate in Tajikistan’s Khorog may be the latest.

Taliban’s Diplomatic Presence Growing in Central Asia
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Taliban may have secured access to another of the former Afghan Republic’s diplomatic missions in Central Asia, this time in Tajikistan. 

While Dushanbe has not confirmed the reports, over the weekend a Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman said a delegation led by the head of the ministry’s finance and administrative affairs office, Mohammad Musa Amiri, had traveled to the Afghan consulate in Khorog on March 23. It’s not clear by what route the delegation may have traveled, but the city of Khorog — the capital of Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan region — sits on the border with Afghanistan where the Ghunt and Panj rivers converge.

Unlike Afghanistan’s other Central Asian neighbors — Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — Tajikistan proved reluctant to formally engage the Taliban. President Emomali Rahmon has been critical of the Taliban, and the National Resistance Front (NRF), led by Ahmad Massoud, has found shelter in Tajikistan. That said, Dushanbe continues to export electricity to Afghanistan, demonstrating that commercial interests often trump political concerns.

The Taliban spokesman said over the weekend that the delegation “reviewed the activities of the consulate and also sent a report on the reconstruction of the consulate compound to MoFA.” Avalanches in February reportedly damaged the consulate’s facilities.

Tolo News reported that the embassy of Afghanistan in Tajikistan — which remains controlled by diplomats from the erstwhile republic — said there had been no delegation.

Eurasianet, on the other hand, cited an Afghan diplomatic source in Tajikistan as confessing, “Formally, the consulate is part of the embassy itself, but informally, it is not under our control, and it is directly linked to the Taliban.”

Since coming to power in August 2021, the Taliban government has not been officially recognized by any country. Although this ambiguity (and in some cases designation of the Taliban as a terrorist group) remains, a number of countries continue to engage with the Taliban, including handing diplomatic missions over to their control. Taliban appointees now serve as charges d’affaires in a number of countries, including embassies in China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Qatar and consulates in Istanbul (Turkey) and Dubai (United Arab Emirates). 

Turkmenistan accepted a Taliban-appointed ambassador and handed over the Afghan embassy in March 2022

In the summer of 2022, a Taliban delegation visited Uzbekistan, including the Afghan embassy in Tashkent. The Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi reportedly “asked Afghan diplomats in Uzbekistan to continue with their activities at the country’s embassy” and said that Kabul was satisfied with their work. Earlier, the Taliban reportedly took control of the Afghan consulate in Termez, an important border city, from which they collect fees from car traffic crossing the Friendship Bridge. 

While countries in the wider world remain reluctant to recognize the Taliban, those that neighbor Afghanistan most closely by default have to engage in some kind of cooperation with the group. Growing concerns about the threat posed by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and the Taliban’s inability to adequately deal with the group may motivate countries like Tajikistan — which holds little love for the Taliban — to make some concessions on the matter of consulate control.