Tajikistan: Taliban take control of consulate

Tajikistan: Taliban take control of consulate
The Afghan consulate in Khorog is run by the Taliban, while the Afghan embassy in Dushanbe is run by the exiled resistance. / government handout
By Eurasianet March 28, 2023

The Afghan consulate in the eastern Tajikistan city of Khorog has passed under the control of the Taliban regime, while staff at the main embassy in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, are still considering their options, a diplomatic source has said.

A representative of the Dushanbe embassy, who spoke to Eurasianet on condition of anonymity on March 27, said the Khorog consulate is issuing Afghan passports and that staff have been receiving salaries from the Taliban for the last two months.

“Formally, the consulate is part of the embassy itself, but informally, it is not under our control, and it is directly linked to the Taliban,” the source said.

The Dushanbe embassy has to date refused to acknowledge the Taliban government and has instead pledged allegiance to the former Afghan first vice president Amrullah Saleh.

Khorog GBAO map

Khorog residents have said that the premises of the consulate was destroyed in an avalanche in February but that staff are still working. The Taliban-run Foreign Ministry said in a statement over the weekend that one of its senior representatives has visited the city, which lies across the Panj River from Afghanistan, to check on the activities of the mission and to inspect repair works.

That visit indicates that the takeover of the consulate has some degree of blessing from the Tajik government, which has otherwise adopted a largely frosty stance toward the Taliban since it overthrew the government of president Ashraf Ghani in 2021. The source at the Afghan Embassy in Dushanbe said he was uncertain if the Taliban delegation met with any Tajik officials.

“Despite the fact that no one has yet recognised the Taliban government, 16 countries have already allowed Taliban representatives to work in embassies. And so we would not be surprised if our embassy is also handed over to the Taliban,” he said.

The Taliban is deemed a terrorist organisation by Tajikistan by virtue of a Supreme Court ruling issued in March 2006.

Despite the frostiness in ties, Afghanistan and Tajikistan have continued to trade. Official data shows that trade turnover last year reached $111mn – almost all of which is Tajik exports to Afghanistan – which was around one-third more than in 2021. The main export items are cement and electricity.

President Emomali Rahmon has been openly hostile in his public statements about the Taliban. In August 2021, he stated his government would not recognise the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan unless the country’s ethnic Tajik minority, which he claimed accounted for 46% of the total population, was accorded a “worthy role” in the running of the country.

He has demonstrated his anti-Taliban bona fides in other ways, such as when he granted posthumous state awards to the late Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud and Burhanuddin Rabbani, a one-time Afghan president who was killed by Taliban assassins in September 2011. Since the Taliban’s most recent ascendancy, Rahmon has offered sanctuary to Massoud’s son, Ahmad, who has positioned himself as the figurehead of an armed opposition to the Taliban.

This story first appeared on Eurasianet here.