A delegation from Taliban’s political office has visited Uzbekistan where they met with senior foreign ministry officials, Uzbek officials and Taliban said Saturday.
The Taliban’s political chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai represented the group in the four-day talks that ended Friday and included meetings with Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov as well as its special representative to Afghanistan Ismatilla Irgashev, the Taliban political office’s spokesman Mohammad Sohail Shaheen confirmed in a statement.
At the meeting, the Taliban delegation discussed project security including the security of the electricity line, he said in the statement, adding that the delegation also discussed the issue of foreign troop’s withdrawal and peace in the country.
Shaheen said Uzbek officials discussed their security concerns surrounding development projects in the country.
Uzbek's Foreign Affairs Ministry website offered a terse announcement on the visit saying "the sides exchanged views on prospects of the peace process in Afghanistan. "
The Taliban have gained increasing attention from Russia as well as Uzbekistan, who view the insurgency as a bulwark against the spread of Daesh in Afghanistan. The United States has accused Moscow of giving weapons to the Taliban, Associated Press reported.
Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the US Institute of Peace said Washington would welcome a "constructive" Russian role in finding a way toward a peace pact in Afghanistan, the report said.
"What wouldn't be helpful would be if the Uzbek efforts to facilitate lines of communication with the Taliban are not closely coordinated with the Afghan government," he said.
"High profile talks by foreign governments with the Taliban that exclude the Afghan government risk providing too much legitimacy to the Taliban without getting much in return," Wilder said.
There was no immediate comment from the Afghan government, but neither the Taliban nor the Uzbek foreign ministry statement mentioned the Afghan government.
For Uzbekistan, the Daesh presence is particularly worrisome as hundreds of its fighters are former members of the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a declared terrorist group considered the architect of some of the more horrific attacks carried out by Daesh in Afghanistan, AP reported.
Last year, there were reports that the son of Tahir Yuldashev, the powerful Uzbek leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who was killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan in 2009, was leading efforts to help expand Daesh influence in Afghanistan.
Last week, Afghan security forces reportedly rescued scores of Afghan Uzbeks who had declared their allegiance to Daesh when they came under attack by Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan not far from the border with Uzbekistan.
The rescued Uzbek warriors declared they would join the peace process. Most of those rescued were Afghan Uzbeks loyal to Afghanistan's Vice President Rashid Dostum who had gone over to IS after Dostum fell out with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and fled to Turkey in May last year, AP reported.
Coincidentally their rescue from the Taliban came just days after Dostum returned to Afghanistan and reconciled with Ghani's government.