All eyes are on Central Asia as Afghanistan’s closest neighbours determine their next moves after the Taliban returns to power in Kabul.
With the US withdrawal and the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, how are neighbouring Central Asian countries reacting to the developments?
This is a breakdown of how the region is navigating extraordinary circumstances.
Kazakhstan: military mobilisation
As the most powerful country in the region with its vast military strength and defence budget of more than $2.4 billion, Kazakhstan had signalled that the country's main priority is overcoming potential security threats.
During the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) online session on August 25, Central Asian countries and Russia exchanged views regarding the latest situation in Afghanistan.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev focused on avoiding the spread of terrorism, extremism and illegal migration. He also highlighted the necessity of preventing a humanitarian and food crises in Afghanistan.
Six days after the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, Tokayev stated the latest situation in Afghanistan creates risks for the country by adding that the military should mobilise and prepare for any kind of threat.
"In the context of the aggravation of the international situation, our power structures should be maximally mobilized," the Kazakh President said during the Kaysar-2021 operational and tactical exercises in Kazakhstan's Almaty region.
Tokayev's call came a day after his meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss joint efforts including increasing arms sales and mutual military practices to overcome their security concerns from terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Daesh-K.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Akan Rakhmetullin emphasised that Kazakhstan fully supports the UN Security Council statement, calling for establishing an inclusive and representative government, respecting the rights of minorities and women, and preventing the existence of groups that pose a threat to other countries.
He stated that before any dialogue is started the measures in the UN statement should be implemented while stressing that currently, Kazakhstan does not recognise the Taliban-ruled government.
Uzbekistan: maintaining dialogue
On Friday, The Uzbek government affirmed continuing their long-standing communication with the Taliban to assure Uzbekistan's security.
"We are in contact with the Taliban every day,” said President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, according to state news agency UzA.
Uzbekistan's communication with the Taliban date back to two years ago as the situation in Afghanistan convinced the Uzbek government to start talks with the Taliban.
Mirziyoyev states that the Taliban's de facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar gave assurances to not attack Uzbekistan, citing he is ready for any dialogue to ensure there is no fire in the direction of Uzbekistan.
Despite the country's effort to strengthen its border security and cautious stance over refugee flows, the country temporarily opened a key border bridge called Friendship Bridge for aid to Afghanistan.
"Afghan people require support, if they are willing to strive for peace, we are then ready to support them," Mirziyoyev said during a visit to Uzbekistan's northern Navoi region.
Earlier, hundreds of Afghan military personnel fled to Uzbekistan with dozens of aircraft after the Taliban takeover. The Uzbek Defence Ministry later announced that they had shot down an Afghan military plane that violated their airspace but two pilots were saved from the crash.
Tajikistan: No recognition without an inclusive government
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon recently stated that Tajikistan will not recognise an Afghan government that is not inclusive and does not represent all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups, naming Tajik population.
‘The Taliban have reneged on their previous promise to form an interim government with the broad participation of other political forces in the country and are preparing to establish an Islamic Emirate,” said the Tajik leader during his meeting with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan on Wednesday.
Last month, Russia and Tajikistan held a bilateral meeting over Afghanistan as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko announced the preparation of an agreement that provides free assistance to Tajikistan for border post construction.
This move came after the Taliban's control over the Tajikistan border crossing. The agreement’s major focus is strengthening Tajikistan's defence capacity to avoid illegal migration and terror attacks.
Kyrgyzstan: beware of sleeper cells
Kyrgyzstan Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev urged regional countries to beware of the presence of other international terrorist organisations besides Daech and Al Qaeda, that may want to spread their ideology.
Kazakbaev stated that measures should be taken against such ‘sleepy terror cells’ while claiming that the Taliban has no such presence.
Kazakbayev recalled the Taliban's statements in which they say they are focused only on the domestic agenda and had no plans for external expansion. With regards to Afghanistan's current situation, Kazakbayev pointed out that it all depends on the Taliban's future steps.
'The Taliban has previously promised to ensure the inviolability and security of all foreign diplomatic missions and representations of international organizations in Afghanistan. We hope that these promises will be fulfilled," he said.
Turkmenistan: communication to continue with the Taliban
On August 18, three days after the fall of Kabul, Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry released a statement, saying that they are maintaining regular communication with the Taliban to provide border transit services.
“We note that the checkpoints at the Imamnazar-Aqina and Serhetabat-Torghundi crossings are operating as usual and that the passage of the requisite number of road trailers and railway cargo is being permitted under conditions agreed upon by both sides.”