Developments in the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor and Afghanistan

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Central Asian countries see Pakistan and India as important countries as they actively implement a multi-vector foreign policy approach. In turn, both Islamabad and New Delhi see the region as a valuable geography in terms of surface and underground riches and corridors. This provides an impetus for relations to gain momentum. In the process of strengthening relations between the parties, regional actors are demonstrating a strong common will. Undoubtedly, this has an impact on Afghanistan.

One of the factors shaping the relations between the regions is the developments centered on Afghanistan. Due to the opportunities offered by the projects, Afghanistan is becoming more involved in regional collaborations and projects. The first example of this is the shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Turkmenistan to Pakistan by road via tankers. The opening of this line has been celebrated in Afghanistan. [1] In the next period, energy resources will be sent to Pakistan and India on the occasion of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TAPI). However, in order not to waste time and to strengthen economic relations, energy is also transported by road today.

After the withdrawal of the United States (USA) from Afghanistan, ensuring relative security and stability in the country has been encouraging for the implementation of various projects. One of these projects is the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor. The corridor in question will allow the establishment of the shortest geographical connection between Uzbekistan and Pakistan through Afghanistan. In addition, thanks to the Tirmiz-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar route, both Uzbekistan, Central Asia and Afghanistan will be able to reach the oceans from the shortest route.

Uzbekistan and Pakistan have shown a strong will for the implementation of this project. The Afghanistan policy of the parties is also strongly influenced by the idea of implementing the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor. Because the strong bond that will be established between Uzbekistan and Pakistan will increase the achievements not only of the two states and Afghanistan, but also of Central and South Asia. For this reason, a pragmatic foreign policy is being implemented based on a win-win approach towards Afghanistan.

In this context, various steps are being taken and resources are being sought for the financing of the project. However, it is suggested that there are uncertainties about the fate of the project due to both the financing issue and the threat elements in Afghanistan. However, a recent development has shown that the project is continuing slowly but decisively. Because Uzbekistan Railways, which made a statement on May 13, 2023, announced the opening of a project coordination office in Tashkent. According to the statement, the main function of the office is to establish close cooperation between Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to develop feasibility studies and accelerate railway construction, and to coordinate measures. [2]

On the other hand, one of the goals of opening the office is to speed up the practical implementation of the project and give continuity to the process. The opening ceremony was attended by Ismatulla Irgashev, Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan Mr. Shevket Mirziyoyev to Afghanistan, Ahmed Farooq, Ambassador of Pakistan to Uzbekistan and Bakht-ur-Rehman Sharafat, Chairman of the Railway Administration of Afghanistan. In his statement, Irgashev stated that the opening of the office was a step that would speed up the process. Farooq stated that the connection between the peoples will be strengthened on the occasion of the development of the region and while connecting Central Asia to South Asia, mutual trade opportunities will be created with the countries of the Sea of Oman at the same time. Sharafat stated that since the opening of the office will provide direct communication, the states will be organized more effectively and drew attention to the fact that it will be possible to move the natural resources of Russia and Central Asia to South Asia. [3]

As it can be seen, all three states have various goals and interests within the framework of the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor. It can be said that the first priority is to reach new markets, establish relations that will ensure their economic development, facilitate energy trade, increase their geopolitical gains, generate new economic revenues and provide employment. However, the project in question is not limited to just three states. As Sharafat points out, the project will also connect Russia to South Asia. In fact, the extension of the line to India will bring about a significant geopolitical and geoeconomic shift in Asia.

All in all, there are various debates on the Trans-Afghan Transport Corridor. However, the steps taken show that the project will be realized, albeit slowly. At this point, Uzbekistan and Pakistan are the main actors playing an encouraging role in the project. Afghanistan supports the corridor despite its limited political and economic capacity. Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be the main beneficiaries of the realization of the corridor. However, other Central Asian states, Russia and the Gulf states will also gain significantly. Increasing the capacity of the project and the number of countries it addresses will be a great benefit for Afghanistan, which is trying to increase its political and economic capacity. In parallel, it is possible to say that Afghanistan will participate more strongly in other regional projects.

[1] Bibi Amina Hakimi, “Export of Turkmenistan Gas to Pakistan Via Afghanistan Has Begun: Officials”, Tolo News,, (Erişim Tarihi: 17.05.2023); “Turkmenistan Starts Supplying Liquefied Natural Gas to Pakistan Through Afghanistan”, AKI Press,, (Date of Accesion: 17.05.2023).

[2] “Uzbekistan Hosts HQ for Trans-Afghan Train Project”, Eurasianet,, (Date of Accesion: 17.05.2023).

[3] “Toshkentda O’zbekiston-Afg’oniston-Pokiston Yangi Temir Yo’l Liniyasini Qurish Loyihasini Muvofiqlashtirish Ofisi Ochildi”, O’zbekiston Temir Yo’llari,, (Date of Accesion: 17.05.2023).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.