A delegation of the Taliban’s political office located in Doha (Qatar), led by its head, Shir Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, was in Tashkent on  a working visit from August 7 to August 10, a statement released by Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry says.  

A terse statement offered by Uzbekistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry website on the visit of the Afghan Taliban delegation says the delegation met with representatives of the Uzbek Foreign ministry and the sides exchanged views on prospects of the peace process in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, some international media outlets, citing  Mohammad Sohail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, report that Taliban representatives met Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Kamilov and Special Representative for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev during the August 6-10 visit.

The meetings followed an offer made by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in March to broker peace in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Reuters says the rail and power links from Uzbekistan are vital both for cross-border trade and for maintaining Afghanistan’s shaky power supplies, which are already subject to frequent blackouts.

The Taliban, fighting to topple the Western-backed government and drive out international forces, have generally refrained from sabotaging vital infrastructure and have sought to reassure neighboring countries about their aims.

A senior Taliban official said the movement had established a political office in the Uzbek capital Tashkent aimed at developing better ties and showing that they did not intend to support local insurgent groups, according to Reuters. 

Some experts note that for Uzbekistan, the Islamic State (IS) terror group’s 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 IS in Afghanistan.

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 IS influence in Afghanistan.

In early August, Afghan security forces reportedly rescued scores of Afghan Uzbeks who had declared their allegiance to IS when they came under attack by Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan not far from the border with Uzbekistan.  The rescued Uzbek militants 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, accordin to Voice of America (VOA).

Coincidentally their rescue from the Taliban came just days after Dostum returned to Afghanistan and reconciled with Ghani’s government.