Afghan Leg of Khyber Pass Economic Corridor Rail Line May Start Construction Next Month
A critical phase of the strategic 573 km railway in Afghanistan from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul to Peshawar, Pakistan, known as the Khyber Pass Economic Corridor, may begin construction next month, according to South China Morning Post. Author Maria Siow in an Aug. 7, “Does the New U.S.-Led ‘Quad’ with Pakistan Have China in Its Sights?” reports that, according to Umida Hashimova, an analyst at the U.S.-based Center for Naval Analyses who specializes in Central Asia affairs, construction of the “railway’s first section, between Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, is expected to begin next month.”
This railway agreement was finalized at a landmark Feb. 2 meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, between the governments of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Once constructed, the rail line will be extended from Mazar-i-Sharif northeast to Uzbekistan, linking the landlocked Central Asian countries to the Arabian Sea via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Gwadar and Karachi.
The project involves Russia. An article in the May 23 Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency news service, titled “Analysis—Uzbekistan Keen To Build Rail Link Between Central, South Asia,” states: “The design and technical documentation of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway will be undertaken by the Russian Railways, Uzbek officials announced following talks with Russian Railways chief Oleg Belozerov in Tashkent on May 19.” There would also be an electricity transmission line along the railway. (Russian Railway’s Belozerov also proposed a to Uzbekistan for a rail corridor from Russia to Uzbekistan to Afghanistan to India.)
The Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway could also involve other agencies, as its cost is projected at $4.8 billion, and the railway’s organizers have approached the China-linked Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for financing.
If, after 30 years of war, Afghanistan is to be reconstructed, this railway will play an essential role, linking Afghanistan cities to Uzbekistan and Pakistan, Russia, China, etc. Likely, it will involve drilling tunnels through mountains, and it will be a backbone, facilitating Afghanistan as a hub for regional development and for the New Silk Road connecting Asia and Europe.