The Afghan crisis, a boon for Uzbekistan

A freight train slowly emerges from the sandstorm and disappears again, continuing its course towards the Afghan border. “Here, we call it afganiets [l’“Afghan”], a southerly wind laden with dust ”, explains, in an approximate Russian Bakhodir, a taxi driver who twiddles his thumbs not far from an Uzbek checkpoint. Visibility is reduced to less than one hundred meters. Helmeted and armed like assault troops, the border guards order anyone who approaches the crossing point to move away. “Before, the Taliban already held the other side, but our guards were relaxed and dressed as usual”, comments the driver, gloomy, because the customer is rare: “The Afghans can pass, but we cannot! “

Only heavy truck drivers and a handful of Afghan businessmen with Uzbek visas can now go from one side to the other. Most of the Afghan community in Termez, a town just 10 km from the border, have given up on returning to their homeland anyway. “I will be executed immediately if I return”, thinks he knows an entrepreneur installed here since the 1990s, who prefers to keep his name silent. “I don’t have an Uzbek passport, so I’m making myself very small. The Uzbeks are not going to help us, they only follow their interests. “

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Don’t offend the Taliban

The Afghan community numbers around two thousand people, most of whom have settled in the Termez region for one or even two decades. Uzbekistan has received – temporarily – only a small hundred Afghan refugees, whose status remains very precarious. The dozens of Afghan pilots and soldiers who fled the Taliban in August in army planes and helicopters have all been “Evacuated to Qatar”, says an employee of the Afghan consulate in Termez. “Their devices remained in Uzbekistan, but we do not have exact information, Tashkent wants to keep this secret”, he continues.

It is a question of not offending the Taliban, with whom Uzbekistan maintains close contact. It is one of five countries in the world that has never closed its embassy in Kabul, although it is still hesitant to recognize the new government. “We are awaiting the green light from certain members of the UN Security Council”, slips an Uzbek diplomatic source to World, referring to China and Russia.

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An Afghan diplomat stationed in Uzbekistan complains about “Pressures” to evict diplomatic personnel loyal to the former Afghan government. “If Tashkent recognizes the Taliban government, there is a good chance that we will be deported to Afghanistan, he worries. In the meantime, we are seeking asylum in a third country, but no door opens. We are in the midst of a fog. “

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The Afghan crisis, a boon for Uzbekistan