The EU Called Upon to Invest in the Trans-Afghan Railway Corridor

The Trans Afghan Railway Corridor is a long-overdue project that could transform the economy of Afghanistan. Starting in Uzbekistan, in the border town of Termez, which is already a rail depot center, the line is planned to stretch to Mazar-i-Sharif in the northern Afghan Balkh Province, then on to Kabul, and from there, to Peshawar, in North-Western Pakistan. There, the railway could hook up to the existing lines going south, via Islamabad, to the ports of Karachi or Gwadar on the Indian Ocean. If carried out, Afghanistan, as well as the landlocked countries of Central Asia, will gain access to the sea, and trade will hopefully soar.

But investments are needed. When the West, and above all the United States, left Afghanistan abruptly just over one year ago, they cut off all relations to the Taliban regime that took over and left the country to fend for itself, with Washington shamelessly freezing assets of the Afghan Central Bank. Today, the humanitarian situation on the ground is among the worst in the world. It would be in Europe’s own interest to help finance the project. Otherwise, the major investor in transportation and other infrastructure in the entire region is China.

In that context, two prominent Uzbekis were in Europe last week — Ambassador Ismatulla Irgashev, the President’s special representative for Afghanistan, and Akmal Kamalov, the Vice-Chair of Uzbek Railways — to seek direct foreign investment in the Trans-Afghan railway, also known as the “Kabul Corridor”.

At a briefing in Brussels on Nov. 4, Akmal Kamalov presented the progress made so far on the project, which would cost an estimated $5.96 billion and take five years to build. It would proceed diagonally across Afghanistan for 573 km. The Uzbek and Pakistani governments jointly carried out a survey expedition, in July and August, on part of the line, which would include five tunnels.

Concerning the refusal of Western countries to deal with the Taliban, Ambassador Irgashev called for a “critical and pragmatic” dialogue with Kabul, a policy his country is already carrying out in its efforts to support the Afghan people suffering from hunger and cold. In his 30 years of dealing with Afghanistan, he said he has seen a real change in the Taliban. Nonetheless, the Taliban must learn to share power, which can only happen, in his view, through dialogue. According to the EU Reporter, he added that the international community has an obligation to bring about a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

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