Photos of the Friendship Bridge

Some photos on Flickr. Some of the captions refer to the “Freedom Bridge”, though the road-rail crossing of the Amu Darya between Hayratan and a point east of Termez is usually called the “Friendship Bridge”.


BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 27, 2010) —An Afghan Border Policeman stands watch on the Freedom Bridge crossing the Amu Darya River. On 15th February, 1989 the last Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan crossed the bridge into the, then, Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. The bridge now carries rail and vehicular traffic and is the only border crossing between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald)

Balkh Province in Afghanistan
BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 27, 2010) — General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, speaks to Afghan media during a visit to the Freedom Bridge in the town of Hairatan. The bridge, which crosses the Amu Darya River between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, carries both rail and vehicular traffic. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald/Released)

Visiting with Afghan Border Police
BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 27, 2010) — General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, speaks with Afghan Border Police officials on the Freedom Bridge crossing the Amu Darya River. On 15th February, 1989 the last Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan crossed the bridge into the, then Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald/Released)

5th Zone ABP border crossing point to Uzbekistan
Heryatan – Afghan Border Police(ABP) and coalition forces tour the bridge seperating borders at 5th Zone ABP border crossing point to Uzbekistan June 8, 2010. The 5th Zone ABP guard all provinces of Regional Command North, being responsible for defending all borders against enemy threats and counter narcotics. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sergeant Matt Davis)

Developing Afghanistan – Uzbekistan transport links

A press release from Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs detailing reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, including the development of rail and other transport links via the Friendship Bridge and Hayratan.

At the end it gives a few more details of the official visit to Uzbekistan by an Afghan delegation back in August.

On participation of the Republic of Uzbekistan in post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan

27.10.2008 19:46 Press-Release

On participation of the Republic of Uzbekistan in post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan

Uzbekistan is taking an active part in efforts of international community aimed at enhancing stability and thorough development of Afghanistan, and attaches a significant importance to friendly and good neighborly relations with this country. It is conditioned not only by common borders but also by mutual interest of cooperation in the name of ensuring peace, stability and progress in the region.

In December 2002, the Government of Uzbekistan with a view to ensure effective provision of aid rendered by the world community to Afghanistan, adopted a resolution on opening the Hayraton bridge at the Uzbek-Afghan border. In November 2003, Ayritom customs complex started operating in Termez city.

On the outcomes of 2007, the volume of humanitarian cargo going via Ayritom check-point accounted for 1.2 million tons.

Upon the request of Afghan Government, Uzbekistan constructed 11 bridges between the cities of Mazari-Sharif and Kabul. These communication facilities have ensured uninterrupted link between the North and East of the country at the initial stage of economic reconstruction of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Power supply to Afghanistan was restored at the beginning of 2002. In 2007 Uzbekistan exported 20 megawatt of electricity to Afghanistan. Following commissioning of Hayraton – Puli Humri– Kabul power line the volume of power supply to Afghanistan can be increased at the initial stage up to 150 megawatt and eventually up to 300 megawatt.

In June last year the Protocol of Negotiations between Uzbekenergo State Joint-Stock Company and the Ministry for Energy and Water Resources of Afghanistan was signed. The document has defined concrete directions of cooperation for increasing the volumes of power supply to Afghanistan up to 300 megawatt.

In June 2007, the first session of Uzbek-Afghan Intergovernmental commission for trade and economic cooperation was held as a part of the efforts of both sides aimed at extending the scope of bilateral cooperation.

Uzbekistan is rendering all possible assistance to Afghanistan in restoring its national economic system. Particularly, Uzbekistan has been supplying to Afghanistan fuel, construction materials, metal-roll, fertilizers, foodstuff, etc.

The volume of trade between countries is steadily increasing. In 2006 it accounted for USD 163.7 million, including exports – USD 161.7 million and imports – USD 2.0 million.

In 2007 the trade totaled USD 332.3 million, including exports – USD 331.4 million and imports USD 0.9 million.

Currently, 122 companies with participation of Afghan business people are operating in Uzbekistan, of them 39 have been established at the expense of 100% foreign capital.

Uzbekistan and Afghanistan have established quite active political dialogue. For over the last two years the first Vice-President of Afghanistan, Chairman of Senate, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Energy, Minister of Trade, as well as the Adviser to President of Afghanistan for national security visited Uzbekistan.

In 2008 the Afghan delegation led by Minister of Energy and Water Economy of Afghanistan visited Uzbekistan twice.

The sides have discussed construction of 200 kilovolt-capacity, 43-km-long power line starting from Surkhan (Surkhandarya Province) substation to Hayraton (Afghanistan).

Construction works shall be carried out by the Uzbek side.

On August 26-27 this year the first round of talks between the delegations of two countries was held in Tashkent. The prospects of Uzbek-Afghan cooperation on constructing Hayraton-Mazari-Sharif railroad have been discussed in the course of the meeting.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Uzbekistan

Crossing the Friendship Bridge

Here are some links to various articles on the Friendship Bridge, which carries the railway from Termiz/Termez in Uzbekistan, over the Amu Darya river to a freight terminal at Hairaton/Hayraton/(and various other transliterations) in Afghanistan. The nearest town to the Uzbek end is Mangusar.

Friendship BridgeU.S. Army Civil Affairs personnel visit the Termez bridge to assess its usability for supporting the transport of humanitarian aid from Uzbekistan, to the northern provinces of Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Dec. 18, 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

War Zones for Idiots describes American Tom Bissell’s journey into Afghanistan over the Friendship bridge: A trim two-lane span with shallow train tracks running down the center, the bridge was splendid, solid, clean – until we came to its indisputably Afghan side. Suddenly graffiti streaked along the girders, all of it scrawled in indecipherable Arabic-alphabet Persian.

Travelling from Termez, he found

A converse silhouette of crosshatched white girders, the bridge was perhaps five hundred yards from where we stood. Before us a grassy bay of thigh-high vegetation swung back and forth in the breeze. A quarter-mile away, on the other side of the motionless Amu Darya River—as unremarkable as I imagined the view of North Dakota might appear from South Dakota—was Afghanistan.

Some cows, looking legless in the tall grass, drank from pools of swampy standing water near the river, which was itself blocked off with electrified fence and cyclonic coils of barbed wire. Michael thought that some great photos of the Friendship Bridge could be snapped from deeper in the field, and convinced me to follow him.

“Nyet, nyet!” our driver Sobir yelled. We turned, already up to our knees in the grass. He began calling out a single word in Russian while performing an ominous-looking hand motion. I asked Michael what this word meant. He said nothing, his mouth squirming thoughtfully within his blond goatee. He looked at his feet, and then around them.

“He’s saying,” Michael began, “that there are landmines here.”

In this travel blog tourists leave Afghanistan in 2007. Includes a photo of the deck showing the railway.

There is photo of the Russians leaving in 1989 (here is a news report from the Guardian archive), and also a rug design possibly inspired by the bridge, on an Australian website which has almost everything you could possibly need to know about Afghan War Rugs [now there is something which conjures up a strange image – coming next, the Doormats of Mass Destruction?].

A news article on reopening of the bridge in 2001.

Photo, collection of five pictures of the bridge area. I think the armoured vehicles in the river could be BTR-70s, but identification of drowned military kit isn’t exactly my speciality.

“A dismal place with a railway yard”

An article in Dawn dated May 14, 2006 quotes M H A Beg visiting Central Asia to follow Babar‘s passage from the Amu Darya to Nilab:

Babar must have crossed the river Amu somewhere near Termiz. This is the famous crossing site of men and armies. The most famous in recent history being the Russian army of 1979 through the Bridge of Friendship, named in contrast to the act of invasion.

The bridge still stands. It is used by the trade traffic. Not only does it have a road but also a railway crossing from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan. To establish a station for unloading goods, they built a town named Hayratan, a dismal place with a railway yard and some houses belonging to the railway workers and army personnel. The town is so recent that it doesn’t even show on some of the older maps of Afghanistan. These days you cannot go on the bridge directly, but a guard will direct you to a place from where the bridge and Amu Darya are within sight.

The bridge is a steel construction, painted pale yellow on the top. Amu is a big river in the region, made famous in Arabic historical writings as the “Nehar”. Arab historians have given the area beyond a name so beautiful and descriptive, “Mavara-un-nehar”. The railway does not go beyond Hayratan. This is the only part of Afghanistan where there is a railway built by the invading Russians. It is their legacy.

Babar writes in his book that after crossing the Amu on a raft, he landed in Afghan Turkistan where he was greeted by vast flat grasslands.

Fuel Line Vol. 3, 2006 from Defense Energy Support has an article “Voruz Earns Bronze Star Thanks to Many Logistics Professionals”. This describes removing a vast quantity of fuel from a US base in Uzbekistan to one in Afghanistan in a hurry during 2005, by rail and lorry. There is a small photo of railway tracks at Hayratan.