U.S. Envoy Visits Dushanbe As Part of Afghan Peace Process
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad made an official visit to Tajikistan beginning on October 2. Over the course of three days, Khalilzad met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sirojidin Muhriddin, Minister of Interior Ramazon Rahimzoda, Chairman of the State Committee for National Security Colonel-General Saymumin Yatimov, Minister of Defense Sherali Mirzo, and other high-ranking officials.
The meetings between the two parties built on the previous work of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations that began on September 12 in Doha, Qatar. The United States is working towards the negotiation of a political settlement between the official Afghan leadership and the Taliban. The United States has maintained that the foundation of a stable government and elimination of Afghanistan as a springboard for international terrorism is a necessary part of the peace process.
U.S. officials are seeking to develop a stronger relationship with Dushanbe as part of their Afghanistan strategy. The five Central Asian republics all have an important role in the future of Afghanistan, as demonstrated by Washington’s C5+1 format of international cooperation. According to Khalilzad, Tajikistan will be one of the primary direct beneficiaries of peace in Afghanistan. It is the U.S. view that Tajikistan will play a key role in supporting economic development opportunities, including the CASA-1000 power transmission line and international transport corridors, that will enhance connectivity between Afghanistan and Central Asia. According to a statement released by the Office of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, the United States and Tajikistan exchanged views on the importance of developing relations between the two countries. Rahmon noted that the United States and Tajikistan have numerous shared interests, including the mutual priorities of fighting terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking, and other transnational organized crimes. Tajikistan’s President pledged to continue to make efforts to encourage socio-economic growth and recovery in Afghanistan.
The meeting between the United States and Tajikistan comes less than a month after Tajik officials hosted Afghan representatives in Dushanbe to discuss the Afghan peace process. Meetings between officials from regions of Tajikistan and Afghanistan were held on September 17 and 18.
A critical component of improved regional cooperation is the development of joint efforts to address the security threats facing both Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In the post-9/11 world, various Tajikistani groups provided networks for recruiting Central Asians and involving them in fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One such group was headed by Sayvaly Shafiev of Tajikistan, who reportedly recruited over 200 fighters from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian countries for an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. According to Tajik security services, Shafiev has been linked to several plans for terror attacks in Dushanbe, including against foreign embassies and Tajikistani government buildings and military facilities.
The Islamic State also poses threats to Tajikistan through its control of Afghanistan’s Jawzjan province. This province, a large production center of opium poppies, is connected to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan by major roadways. According to the CIA, Tajikistan is located on one of the world’s highest-volume illicit drug trafficking routes, funneling Afghan opiate production into Central Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe. The United States recognizes the drug trade as an important source of financing for terror groups, threatening stability and the security of U.S. interests as well.
On September 18, national-level officials held a series of meetings. Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar met with President Rahmon, who assured Atmar of Dushanbe’s support for peace efforts in Afghanistan. Atmar and Rahmon discussed economic issues as well, including the status of infrastructure projects, trade development, and energy transfer agreements. Afghanistan and Tajikistan agreed to prepare and develop a Strategic Partnership Agreement. Tajikistan currently has strategic partnership agreements with four other countries: China, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan. In the September meetings, Afghan representatives pressed Tajik authorities to prioritize resuming electricity supplies to Afghanistan. Despite Afghanistan’s urgent need to import power, neither party specified when the document would be signed.