Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan Fear Afghan Fallout

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Uzbekistan, whose Friendship Bridge across the Amu Darya river is the main border crossing to Afghanistan from the north, fears the potential impact that the Taliban takeover could have on its fragile economy. Under the five-year reign of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan has tried to bring in foreign investors by rolling out a range of projects focused on renewable energy, and also restructuring inefficient state enterprises such as state oil and gas company Uzbekneftegas. Visa-free travel and a loosening of the red tape that was a hallmark of the long rule of late President Islam Karimov have boosted investor confidence. But serious unrest across its southern border and a possible uptick in domestic instability will put further pressure on the Uzbek economy, and may force the regime to tighten political controls. There are already signs that the Afghan upheavals have driven down the price of Uzbekistan’s sovereign bonds, raising borrowing costs and suggesting that more pain lies ahead. Kazakhstan, although it does not share a border with Afghanistan, is also alarmed at the chaos unfolding in the country. The day after the Taliban entered Kabul, President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, summoned the members of his national security council and instructed them to keep up a "comprehensive monitoring" of the situation in Afghanistan. Paul Sampson, London

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