Afghanistan - Transportation



Many roads were built in the years prior to 1979 to connect the principal cities and to open up formerly isolated areas. As of 2002, Afghanistan had an estimated 21,000 km (13,000 mi) of roads, of which 2,793 km (1,736 mi) were paved. Roads connect Kabul with most provincial capitals and with Peshawar in Pakistan through the Khyber Pass. The road from Herat to Mashhad in Iran was completed in 1971. The Salang Tunnel through the Hindu Kush, completed with Soviet assistance in 1964, considerably shortened the travel time between Kabul and northern Afghanistan. The tunnel was modernized in the mid-1980s. However, in May 1997 the Tajik leader, Ahmad Shah Masud, blew up the southern entrance of the tunnel in an effort to trap the invading Taliban forces. It was reopened in January 2002. The Kandahar-Torghundi highway in the south was completed in 1965. In 2002 there were 35,000 passenger cars and 32,000 trucks and buses in use.

The Khyber Pass in Pakistan is the best known of the passes providing land access to Afghanistan. Transit arrangements with Iran provide an alternative route for its commercial traffic. However, the great bulk of the country's trade moves through the former USSR. At the same time, Afghanistan's highways are badly damaged from years of warfare and neglect. Land mines are buried on the sides of many roads. Over $1.2 billion in international aid was pledged to rebuiding Afghanistan's highways in 2002.

The only railways in the country in 2001 were a 9.6-km (6-mi) spur from Gushgy, Turkmenistan to Towrghondi, a 15 km (9.3 mi) line from Termez, Uzbekistan to the Kheyrabad transshipment point on the south bank of the Amu Darya, and a short span into Spin Baldak in the southeast. There are no navigable rivers except for the Amu Darya, on Turkmenistan's border, which can carry steamers up to about 500 tons. In 2002, there were 46 airports, 10 of which had paved runways, and 2 heliports. Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier. Most of Ariana Airlines planes were destroyed during the civil war in Afghanistan. Ariana lost six of its eight planes in US-led air strikes against the Taliban. Kabul's international airport reopened to international humanitarian and military flights in late January 2002 after the UN's Security Council lifted the ban early that month, and it began international flight service to Delhi soon after.

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