Afghanistan - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Before the Soviet invasion in 1979, considerable investment from the United States and development agencies had been channeled into the reconstruction of the Afghan road networks. Over 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of roads were built linking the principal cities, giving the country a distinctly modern feel. The long war has undone much of the work carried out by development agencies in the 1970s. In 1993, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimated that 60 percent of the 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) of paved roads needed to be totally rebuilt and that minor roads linking rural areas were in very poor condition. The country has just 21,000 kilometers (12,050 miles) of total roadways. Since 1993 the condition of the roads in Afghanistan has further deteriorated and hundreds of bridges have been destroyed, cutting off many remote mountain areas.

The telecommunications infrastructure has improved since 1999, and in 2001 it was possible to phone between 2 of Afghanistan's major urban centers, Kabul and Kandahar. Telephone calls were also possible to 13 foreign countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. All calls made to Afghanistan have to go through an operator, and calls out of Afghanistan must be made on satellite telephones. In 2000, the Taliban signed a contact with a company based in the United Arab Emirates to increase the number of telephone lines in the country to 1 million by September 2001. This project also aims to put the country in touch with over 99 other countries instead of just 13 within the same time frame.

The aviation infrastructure was almost completely destroyed by the war. Most of the national fleet of aircraft is now unusable or too dangerous to fly commercially. When the first round of sanctions were imposed by the United Nations in 1999, Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, was hit badly because its airplanes were no longer allowed to fly abroad. The country has only 14 airports with paved runways and another 32 dirt landing strips.

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Afghanistan 29,000 (1996) N/A AM 7; FM 1; shortwave 1 (1999) 167,000 (1999) 10 100,000 (1999) 1 N/A
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
India 27.7 M (2000) 2.93 M (2000) AM 153; FM 91; shortwave 68 116 M 562 63 M 43 4.5 M
Pakistan 2.861 M (1999) 158,000 (1998) AM 27; FM 1; shortwave 21 13.5 M 22 3.1 M 30 1.2 M
a Data is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
b Data is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
c Data is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

Before the Soviet invasion in 1979, energy consumption per capita was among the world's lowest. However, as a result of war and the Soviets' development of the country's gas reserves, consumption levels increased. In 1992 the authorities stated that Kabul's winter requirement was 300 megawatts even though the installed capacity was only 150 megawatts. Between 1992 and 1996, much of the capital had no power. In 1993 the UNDP estimated that over 60 percent of the gas transmission lines were not functioning. In July 2000, the Taliban initiated a project to build an electrical grid from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan; however, the project has not progressed due to a lack of funds. Reports coming out of the country in 2001 indicated that the severe winter had claimed hundreds of Afghan lives.

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