Why Kazakhstan’s Deepening Ties With Afghanistan Are Significant

At the end of April a Kazakh delegation made an official visit to Kabul, where a meeting of the Kazakh-Afghan Business Forum and an exhibition of Kazakh products were held.

This was the third bilateral event aimed at expanding trade and economic ties between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. The visit to Kabul indicates Astana’s intention to enhance Kazakhstan’s relations with the new Afghan authorities, and not only through trade. This is evidenced by a number of details that differed from previous official contact.

First, an unannounced trilateral government meeting took place between Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Kabul. The result was the announcement that a new logistics route to Afghanistan through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan would be developed.

There is nothing earthshaking about this – Turkmenistan is set to become a transportation hub for international corridors passing through Kazakhstan, primarily the North-South and the Middle corridors, as well as the Lapis Lazuli Corridor (Turkey-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan).

What is significant is that the sides are striving to create favorable conditions for logistics, especially more competitive transport tariffs so trains can pass through faster. This is particularly important given congestion in Uzbekistan, where bottlenecks occur. The announcement in Kabul also means a direct route to economically attractive western Afghanistan and further south.

What else made the Kabul visit notable was the meeting between Kazakh deputy prime minister Serik Zhumangarin, who oversees trade, and Abdul Kabir, the Taliban’s deputy prime minister for political affairs. Given the reputation of the Taliban, it is not in the interests of Astana to simply stage a conversation for the cameras.

Unfortunately, details about the Zhumangarin-Kabir meeting are few. According to the available information, the deputy prime ministers discussed security issues in Afghanistan, apparently in the context of how to grow the Afghan economy. Following the meeting, Kabir stated that Afghanistan does not want to be a threat to the region, and intends to improve relations with its neighbors through the progressive development of trade and economic relations.

The Zhumangarin-Kabir meeting is said to have taken place on the initiative of the Afghan side. Considering Kabir’s closeness to the emir of the Taliban, it is likely that the initiative came from him.

Other notable outcomes of the visit of the Kazakh delegation to Kabul included: discussion of joint projects for geological exploration, mining and processing of solid minerals in Afghanistan, as well as in the IT sector; discussion of the possibilities for supplying Kazakh-made cars and subsequent localization of service centers in Afghanistan; a rise in the quota for Afghan students at Kazakh universities from 30 to 60, as well as a 10-day trip to children’s camps in Kazakhstan for 30 Afghan children in the summer of 2024; and discussion of the possibility of establishing direct flights between the two countries.

Aidar Borangaziev is a Kazakhstani diplomat. He has worked in the diplomatic service in Iran and Afghanistan. He is a founder of the Open World Center for Analysis and Forecasting Foundation (Astana). He is an expert in regional security.




Times of Central Asia