Baku, Azerbaijan, April 26 / Trend /
Ellada Khankishiyeva, Trend Analytical Center Head
The closer the withdrawal date of NATO troops from Afghanistan gets, the more the projects of railroads linking Afghanistan, first of all, with the Central Asian countries, are discussed. Projects aimed at the integration of Afghanistan into the Central Asian railway network are actively supported by the United States. It is mentioned in the quarterly report of the Administration of the US Special Inspector for Development Projects in Afghanistan that the implementation of rail construction projects in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will allow the country to become an important link in the network of transport routes of Central Asia.
The countries of Central Asia are also unanimously in favor of the implementation of these projects, as they offer very promising prospects. The future railroad network will not only connect the countries of the region, but also provide them with access to the markets of more distant states. The presence of these routes will allow continentally isolated Central Asian countries to realize their entire economic potential.
Anticipating the success of the new transport opportunities, winged by the support of the United States, the countries of Central Asia have begun more and more actively and independently submitting their own projects of railways linking them to Afghanistan, despite the fact that Afghanistan is still quite an unpredictable country.
Developments on the railroad break especially quickly.
This large-scale project was started recently at a trilateral meeting of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan held on March 20 in Ashgabat. The countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of the 'Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan' railway. Also, the other day, Ashgabat hosted the first meeting of the special coordination group for the implementation of this project covering the legal, organizational and technical issues, as well as possible routes for the future railroad.
The intergovernmental Turkmen-Afghan framework agreement on the Atamyrat-Imamnazar-Akina-Andhoi railway construction with the prospect of its further extension into Afghan territory was signed in May 2011. This contributed to rapid implementation of this project.
The matter rested in the construction of two railway sections: The 85-kilometer Atamyrat-Imamnazar line in Turkmenistan and the 38-kilometer Imamnazar-Andhoi line in Afghanistan.
Almost all of the design work for the construction of the Atamyrat-Imamnazar sections has been completed. This way is fundamental in the new project. Moreover, Turkmenistan has already started constructing its section of the railway. The feasibility study of the Afghan section has been completed. The construction of this part of the railway will begin in four months. Tajikistan appealed to the ADB with a request to finance the project. It is likely to receive funds because of the difficult economic situation of the country. Moreover, Tajikistan had its own narrow-gauge railway until 1999; it stretched to the border with Afghanistan and ended at the border crossing Lower Panj.
Along with the economic benefits of the project (investment increases and the trade volume turnover, the creation of new jobs), the countries will be home to world class infrastructure, which is something that they are in dire need of (with the exception of Turkmenistan). This railway is planned to be connected with a larger regional rail system that serves greater Central Asia, as well as Iran and China in the future.
The only thing that casts doubt on the project's implementation is political uncertainty in Afghanistan, the risk of increased drug trafficking and the spread of extremist movements. However, Afghanistan, which is currently undergoing major reforms in the transport sector, equating the development of the rail network to the potential of international trade with its neighbors, gives a good chance for the project implementation by 2015.
Thus, it becomes clear that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway will become the "first sign" in a breakthrough of Afghanistan's transportation isolation and its joining the global economic market.