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How Uzbekistan can help the USA and Afghanistan build a new relationship

How Uzbekistan can help the United States and

Afghanistan build a new relationship


By Stephen Fleming


Uzbekistan is well placed to help the United States build a new relationship with Afghanistan for the benefit of all three countries.

The combined shocks of drought, conflict, COVID-19 and economic crisis in Afghanistan have left more than half of the population facing a record level of acute hunger, according to an assessment published by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Afghanistan is now facing one of the world's worst humanitarian crises and food security has all but collapsed. Millions of Afghans are being forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we life-saving assistance and the economy can be resuscitated.

To address this emerging catastrophe the United States announced $144 million in new humanitarian aid to Afghanistan amid the threat of famine in the country this winter. The additional funds will bring total US aid to the country and Afghan refugees in the region to nearly $474 million this year, a record for any country in the world.

After the Taliban seized power, many analysts, research institutions and media speculated, that Afghanistan will again become a safe haven for anti-western jihadist groups. According to Pentagon commanders there is a potential risk of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan to launch attacks against the U.S.

To protect US national security and leverage its geopolitical interests in Afghanistan the United States should "zoom out" and engage Afghanistan within the broader context of Central Asia through the innovative C5+1 platform, a workgroup that consists of five Central Asian states (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) along with the United States. Washington can dramatically increase and amplify its engagement and impact in Central Asia.

Within this framework Uzbekistan can become a key partner in the region to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid through a newly established cargo-center in Termez near the Afghan border.

After addressing the immediate humanitarian crisis the United States, Uzbekistan, and the C5+1 platform could serve to set a more progressive and proactive agenda in the region. The cargo hub in Termez, created in 2021 to provide assistance to Afghanistan, is currently used by the UNHCR as a point of consolidation and forwarding of humanitarian supplies.

In the future, the United States can take an active part in providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan using the cargo center in Termez, taking into account the repeated statements in support of such efforts by the US politicians.

Another area of productive cooperation may be in education. As part of efforts to strengthen cooperation between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, in 2018 the Uzbek government opened an education center to train Afghan citizens near the city of Termez. Currently, more than 300 students are trained in the center in humanitarian, pedagogical and engineering-technical specialties.

US participation as a donor for this educational project, which has received support from the EU, Slovakia and others will contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan through the training of highly qualified personnel.

Transport connections mean not only the use of potential funds to expand trade, transit and investment in order to develop the economies and prosperity of countries, but also to strengthen the foundations of economic cooperation and consolidation across the region in order to establish peace, stability, and security, while creating tens of thousands of new jobs.

The Asian Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, Islamic Development Bank, World Bank, have already expressed interests in supporting the project.

The direct participation of the United States or through international financial institutions in support of this ambitious project together with Uzbekistan, under the coordination of the C5+1 platform, will provide practical assistance in diversifying the Afghan economy.

The commissioning of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway route will significantly reduce the delivery time of goods to Central Asia, the CIS and Europe.

The construction of the trans-Afghan highway must be seen as part of efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. Regional economic integration will bring peace, stability and prosperity that Central Asia needs and deserves in order to thrive and deliver meaningful progress to its citizens.

Over the years Uzbekistan has demonstrated its practical and politically unbiased approach in relation to solving the military and social economic crisis in Afghanistan.

Through practical steps and projects the United States and Uzbekistan can work constructively to alleviate the immediate crisis and bring long-term sustainable prosperity to the entire region. The problems are real but not insurmountable. Uzbekistan is ready to work with the United States in the immediate and long-term to ensure sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.