Following the international Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan which was held on 26-27 March 2018, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance said Uzbekistan had pledged to provide USD500m to part-fund the construction of a proposed 657 km extension of the Uzbekistan to Mazar-e-Sharif railway onwards to Herat.1 This would connect with the line under construction from Iran to Herat, providing a transit route from Central Asia, and potentially China, to Iran and Europe.
Komil Allamjonov, Press-Secretary to the President of Uzbekistan, Tweeted:
#UzAfg2018 We are jointly promoting the implementation of another strategic project
– extension of the currently operating #Hairaton–#Mazar-i-Sharif railway built by #Uzbek specialists up to #Herat. #Uzbekistan #Afghanistan
— Komil Allamjonov (@k_allamjonov) March 27, 2018
The Afghanistan Railway Authority estimates that the new line would cost USD1.8bn, and so the Afghan government is seeking additional funding from other countries.
AfRA head Mohammad Yama Shams told Tolo News that talks had begun with Iran and were ongoing with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, while China was also interested in investing in the project. A contractor could be selected in the near future, according to AfRA, and construction would take two years. AfRA estimates that Afghanistan would earn about USD40m a year from the line.
The quoted cost works out at USD1.8bn/657 km = 2.73m USD/km. The Hairatan – Mazar-i-Sharif line cost USD170m for 75 km2 or 2.27 USD/km, so the numbers are not dissimilar.
in his address to the international conference,3 Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said:
I have no doubt that in the long run peace on the Afghan soil will open up the new opportunities and bring real benefits to all states of the greater Eurasian continent. It will promote strengthening common security and stability, create favorable conditions for the construction of motorways and railroads, laying of pipelines, development of regional and trans-regional trade.
We are jointly promoting the implementation of another strategic project – extension of the currently operating Hairaton – Mazar-i-Sharif railway built by Uzbek specialists up to Herat.
This project will allow to make a real and practical contribution to reconstruction of Afghanistan’s economy, create new jobs and increase the transit potential of the country.
Launching the trans-Afghan transport-communication projects in close integration with other and not less significant regional projects such as Uzbekistan–Turkmenistan–Iran–Oman and Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan–China will also create all necessary conditions for the development of intercontinental transport corridors in almost all directions – from north to south and from east to west through the shortest route.
Fazel Fazly, senior aide to the President of Afghanistan, tweeted:
— Fazel Fazly (@FFazly) March 27, 2018
Eklil Hakimi, Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance said:
— Eklil Hakimi (@EklilHakimi) March 27, 2018
Development Economist Rafi Fazil commented:
This is a good start for #Afghanistan bilateral ties with #Uzbekistan in the post Karimov era. Economic interdependence is an effective deterrence and guarantor of peace and stability in Central and South Asia. #UzAfg2018 https://t.co/74JBLZVo8y
— Rafi Fazil (@FazilRafi) March 27, 2018
Hameed Hakimi, Research Associate at Chatham House, pointed out:
This is encouraging news for Afghanistan of course but a lot of questions on details remain unanswered; a joint doc/strategy should explain how this railway will be built & timelines – security issues top concern too @EklilHakimi https://t.co/N2139n04ri
— Hameed Hakimi (@hameedhakimi) March 27, 2018
- Uzbekistan Ready To Help Fund Railway Project, Haidarshah Omid, Tolo News, 29 March 2018 ↩
- , Asian Development Bank, February 2014 ↩
- Address by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the international conference on Afghanistan «Peace process, security cooperation and regional connectivity», Official website of the President of Uzbekistan, 27 March 2018 ↩