The Afghanistan Railway Authority (ARA), now controlled by the Taliban, recently announced the opening of a joint coordination office in Tashkent, Uzbekistan to advance the Trans-Afghan Railway Project which aims to connect Central Asian and South Asian countries via Afghanistan.
According to ARA, the joint office was established during the tripartite meeting held on Friday between railway officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. Additional offices in Kabul and Islamabad are also planned to be opened in the near future.
The three countries will meet in May in Islamabad to discuss the project further.
Located at the center of major regions, the Trans-Afghan Railway is also poised to provide linkages to significant export markets from the European Union boundaries down in China.
The railway will run from Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan via Kabul to Peshawar in Pakistan and will connect with the existing Termez, Uzbekistan-Mazar-i-Sharif cross-border line, offering a direct rail link between Pakistan and the Uzbek capital city of Tashkent.
According to the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times, besides the security issues, a big challenge in the implementation of the $4.8 billion project is the arrangement of funds. Uzbekistan is trying to secure financial support from the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, besides the US International Development Finance Corporation.
Daily Times further quoted the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who initiated the concept of the project, saying “Termez-Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar Railway is our common future. When the construction of this route is completed, we will create the closest, cheapest, and safest corridor connecting Pakistan to Central Asia”