Afghanistan and the Modern Silk Road

For many centuries, the ancient Silk Road was Afghanistan's only contact with the outside world. Three decades of conflict has cost Afghanistan dearly, destroying whatever little infrastructure existed. Afghanistan is in dire need of a modern infrastructure, sound basic services, good governance and efficient institutions. Rehabilitating the existing road network is a high priority for the Afghan government and the international community has been helping the country to rebuild shattered road and rail network.

Afghanistan at a crossroads

For centuries, the countries of South and Central Asia were connected to each other and the rest of the continent by a sprawling trading network called the Silk Road.  Afghanistan was at the heart of this network with merchants trading their goods from the Far East to Asia Minor.

Afghanistan can once again reclaim its proud history of commerce and culture and become an integrated link at the heart of the new Silk Road. As important as these transport projects are for Afghanistan, they are equally important for the Central Asia region and for the world. Transport infrastructure and energy supply are the backbone and lifeblood of any economy. For Central Asia, transit through Afghanistan is a vital lifeline, linking landlocked economies to critical global markets. 

Afghanistan together with ADB charting a new course

Since resuming operations in Afghanistan in 2002, ADB is a key donor in the transport sector. ADB has recently approved $754 million in assistance to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered road and rail network, bringing to more than $2 billion the amount it has contributed to the country’s reconstruction over the past decade.

The new funding will upgrade hundreds of kilometers of priority roads and finance construction of new facilities to complement the ADB-funded rail line connecting the northern hub of Mazar-e-Sharif and Uzbekistan. ADB is also involved in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s 2,700 km Ring Road. Work on the last remaining 233 km stretch of road will soon be underway and when complete will connect the northwestern towns of Qaisar, Bala Murghab, and Laman..

“Infrastructure links the new mineral centers to markets, creates jobs, improves trade, and—perhaps most importantly—provides Afghans with a sense of hope for the future,” said Juan Miranda, ADB’s Director General for Central and West Asia. “With the development of modern road, rail and energy networks, Afghanistan is poised to reap the benefits of its strategic location and become a pivotal crossroads for trade and commerce in the region.” 

Vision for the New Silk Road

Click to view larger imageADB’s focus on Afghanistan’s transport and energy networks will enable Afghanistan to fulfill its role as a key player in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program, the 10-country partnership that promotes the implementation of regional projects in energy, transport, and trade facilitation. The New Silk Road vision is a shared commitment to promote private-sector investment, increase regional trade and transit, and foster a network of linkages throughout the region. The creation of a New Silk Road will help Afghanistan and its neighbors maximize the value of natural resources, build human capacity, create jobs, generate revenue to pay for needed services, and capitalize on the region’s economic potential.

The CAREC Action Plan focuses on the development of the six CAREC corridors, which will facilitate transport and trade within and through the CAREC region and provide important links among the world’s rapidly growing markets around the CAREC region.

When completed, the six land transport corridors would cover 3,600 kilometers of roads and 2,000 kilometers of railway, traversing the CAREC region and linking Europe, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and beyond.

ADB is committed to supporting this process and to helping Asia ensure that economic cooperation and integration bring benefits to the people of the CAREC, and Asia as a whole.