Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
August 12, 2021
ASHGABAT — The Taliban says representatives of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia have held talks with the chief of the group’s political office in Qatar amid growing regional concerns over the insurgents’ military offensives across Afghanistan.
A Taliban spokesman told RFE/RL on August 12 that top Taliban figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with Turkmen Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiev and the Uzbek presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Ismatulla Irgashev, in Qatar the previous day to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
Regional issues, including trade between Afghanistan and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, were also discussed, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.
The spokesman for the Taliban’s office in the Qatari capital, Doha, tweeted on August 11 that Baradar and Hajiev discussed “bilateral relations, border issues, economic projects, as well as security of Turkmenistan’s diplomatic missions in Afghanistan.”
In a separate tweet, spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that Baradar also held talks with Russian presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov.
Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on August 12 that its delegation led by Hajiev is currently in Doha along with delegations from the United Nations, European Union, the Great Britain, Russia, Pakistan, China and Uzbekistan, to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
The ministry added that its delegation is also holding separate bilateral talks on the sidelines.
Last month, the Taliban said a delegation visited visited Ashgabat to discuss “bilateral economic and political ties between the two nations, as well as issues of security and borders” with Turkmen officials.
Turkmenistan shares an 800-kilometer border with Afghanistan.
U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged that the withdrawal of U.S. forces will be completed by the beginning of September. With that deadline nearing, the Taliban has unleashed offensives against Afghan government forces and expanded its control over districts and provincial capitals across Afghanistan, as well as border crossings.
Hundreds of Afghans, including soldiers and local police, have reportedly fled into other neighboring Central Asia countries.
The Taliban battlefield successes are stoking concerns that the Western-backed government in Kabul may collapse.