Transport in Afghanistan

Transport in Afghanistan

Landlocked Afghanistan has almost no railways, but the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, has barge traffic. During their occupation of the country, the Soviets completed a bridge across the Amu Darya and built a combined road and rail bridge between Termez and Jeyretan.



Most road building occurred in the 1960s, funded by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviets built a road and tunnel through the Salang pass in 1964, connecting northern and southern Afghanistan. A highway connecting the principal cities of Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Kabul with links to highways in neighboring Pakistan formed the primary road system.

Highways include 8,231 kilometers of paved roads and 26,558 kilometers of unpaved roads, for an approximate total road system of 34,789 kilometers. This 2003 estimation is per CIA World Factbook annotation.


The highway system is currently going through a total reconstruction phase. Most of the regional roads are also being repaired or improved. For the last 30 years, the poor state of the Afghan transportation and communication networks have further fragmented and hampered the struggling economy.

Since the fall of the Taliban many roads have been rebuilt with foreign assistance including:
*Kabul-Kandahar Highway
*Kabul-Jalalabad-Torkham Highway
*Kabul-Gardez Highway
*Kabul-Mazar Highway
*Kandahar-Boldak Highway
*Kandahar-Herat Highway
*Herat-Islam Qala Highway
*Herat-Mazar Highway

A road bridge linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan which cost $37 million was inaugurated in 2007. The bridge, nearly 700 metres long and 11 metres across, straddles the Panj river which forms a natural border between the two countries, between the ports of Nizhny Panj on the Tajik side and Shir Khan Bandar in Afghanistan. [ [ Road bridge opens between Tajikistan and Afghanistan - Yahoo! News] ]


There is less than 25 kilometres of railway inside the country, all of which is built to RailGauge|1524 broad gauge. For strategic reasons, past Afghan governments preferred to discourage the construction of railways which could aid foreign interference in Afghanistan by Britain or Russia. [ [ Railways in Afghanistan, past and future] ]

Turkmen and Uzbek borders

A 10 kilometer long line extends from Serhetabat in Turkmenistan to the town of Towraghondi in Afghanistan. An upgrade of this Soviet-built line began in 2007. [cite news | title=Afghan rebuild underway | url= | work =Railway Gazette International | date = 2007-07-12 ]

A second RailGauge|1524 gauge line, also built by the USSR, extends for around 15 kilometers from Termez in Uzbekistan to Kheyrabad Port, crossing the Amu Darya on the road-rail Friendship Bridge. [cite news | title=Aid train reaches Afghanistan | url = | work =Railway Gazette International | date = 2002-01-01 ]

Iranian border

The nearest railhead in Iran is a RailGauge|1435 standard gauge line which terminates at Mashhad. [cite news | title=Modern construction methods mastered on Mashhad - Bafgh line | url = | work =Railway Gazette International | date = 2007-07-01 ] This line is currently being extended 202 kilometers east to Herat. [cite news | url= | title=Rail Link With Herat | work=Iran Daily | date=2007-02-27] cite news | title=Opening up Afghan trade route to Iran | url= | work =Railway Gazette International | date = 2008-01-29 | author=Murray Hughes ] On April 17 2007 Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said that the executive operations of the Khaf, Iran-Herat railway project had begun in 2006.

Pakistan border

Two broad gauge RailGauge|1676 lines from Pakistan terminate on the border at Chaman and the Khyber Pass. Various proposals exist to extend these lines on to Kandahar and Kabul respectively.

Other borders

There are no rail links to China or Tajikistan, though a connction to the latter was proposed in 2008. [cite news | title=Pointers | url = | work =Railway Gazette International | date = 2008-06-15 ]

Gauge problem



* Construction in Iran has brought that system's lines close to the Afghan border at flagicon|Iran Khaf. Proposed extensions using RailGauge|ussg gauge would serve:
** flagicon|Afghanistan Ghurian
** Herat
** Meymaneh
** Sheberghan
** Hariatan - break of gauge link with flagicon|Uzbekistan Uzbekistan
** Shir Khan Bandar

* "Opening up Afghan trade route to Iran"


There are petroleum pipelines from Bagram into Uzbekistan and Shindand into Turkmenistan. These pipelines have been is disrepair and disuse for years. There are 180 kilometers of natural gas pipelines. The $3 billion Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline proposal for a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan into Pakistan is moving forward.

Ports and harbors

The chief inland waterway of land-locked Afghanistan is the Amu Darya River which forms part of Afghanistan's northern border. The river handles barge traffic up to about 500 metric tons. The main river ports are located at Kheyrabad and Shair Khan .


There are 47 airports. Approximately 10 of these have paved runways. Of those, 3 have runways over 3000 meters, 4 have runways between 2500 and 3000 meters, 2 have runways between 1500 and 2500 meters, and 1 has a runway under 1000 meters. 37 have unpaved runways. Of those, 1 has a runway over 3000 meters, 7 have runways between 2500 and 3000 meters, 14 have runways between 1500 and 2500 meters, 4 have runways between 1000 and 1500 meters, and 11 have runways under 1000 meters.

*Kabul International Airport (3500 m runway) is the nation's largest airport and the primary hub for international civilian flights.
*Kandahar International Airport (3200 m runway) is a dual-use airport serving southern Afghanistan.
*Mazari Sharif Airport (3100 m runway) is a dual-use airport serving the northern and central portions of the country.
*Herat Airport (2600 m runway) is the primary civil airport for the western portion of the country.
*Jalalabad Airport (1800 m runway)

Bagram Air Base is used by the US military and allied forces. It has heavy traffic, especially helicopters. It can also handle larger airliners such as Boeing 747s, C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III military cargo planes. KBR and some other companies fly into and out of Bagram on a regular basis.

Afghanistan government priorities include upgrading of Kabul Airport to international airport meeting ICAO standards and upgrading Herat, Mazari Sharif and Jalalabad airports to international standards. [ [ Afghanistan airfields ] Global Security]


There are at least five heliports.

ee also

*Ariana Afghan Airlines
*List of airports in Afghanistan
*Afghan railway history


External links

* [ Railways in Afghanistan, past and future]
* [ Afghan railway news] for news
* [ UN map]

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