Transport in Afghanistan is limited and in the developing stage. Much of the nation's road network was built during the 1960s but left to ruin during the 1980s and 90's wars. New national highways, roads, and bridges have been rebuilt in the last decade to help increase travel as well as trade with neighboring countries. In 2008, there were about 731,607 vehicles registered inside the country.
Landlocked Afghanistan has no seaports but the Amu Darya river, which forms part of the nation's border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, does have large traffic. Rebuilding of airports, roads, and rail services has led to rapid economic boost in recent years. The nation has about 43 airports and a much smaller number of heliports.
Most major roads were built in the 1960s with assistance from the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets built a road and tunnel through the Salang pass in 1964, connecting northern and eastern 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.
The network includes 12,350 kilometers of paved roads and 29,800 kilometers of unpaved roads, for an approximate total road system of 42,150 kilometers as of 2006. Traffic in Afghanistan is right hand, with about 731,607 registered vehicles in the country (2008 estimate). The Afghan government passed a law banning the import of cars older than 10 years.
Long distant road journeys are made by company-owned Mercedes-Benz coach buses or various types of vans, trucks and private cars. Although a nationwide bus service is available between major cities, flying is safer, especially for foreigners. There are occasional highway robberies by bandits or militant groups. The roads are also dangerous due to accidents and lack of security forces.
The highway system is currently going through a 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.
The following is a partial list of national roads:
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 Sher Khan Bandar in Afghanistan. The Delaram-Zaranj highway was constructed with Indian assistance and was inaugurated in January 2009.
There is a 75-kilometer-long rail line between Uzbekistan and the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, all of which is built to 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) broad gauge. The line begins from Termez and crosses the Amu Darya river on the Soviet-built Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge, finally reaching a site next to the Mazar-i-Sharif Airport. The Afghan government expects to have the rail line extended to Kabul and then to the eastern border town of Torkham, connecting with Pakistan Railways. The work is carried out by China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC). For strategic reasons, past Afghan governments preferred to discourage the construction of railways which could aid foreign interference in Afghanistan by Britain or Russia.
A 10-kilometer-long 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) broad gauge line extends from Serhetabat in Turkmenistan to the town of Torghundi in Afghanistan. An upgrade of this Soviet-built line began in 2017. There is another 3.5 kilometer similar line that extends from Aqina dry port in Faryab province via Imamnazar to Atamyrat, where it connects with the Turkmen rail network. The latter line is expected to be extended by 300 kilometers to other northern provinces of Afghanistan. An initial extension of 58 kilometres (36 mi) to Andkhoy is under construction.
The nearest railhead is a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge line in Iran which terminates at Mashhad. This line is being extended 191 kilometers east to Herat, of which 77 km is located inside Iran and the remaining 114 km in Afghanistan.
Two broad gauge 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) Pakistan Railways lines terminate near the border at Chaman in Balochistan near the Khojak Pass; and at Torkham, the border town near the Khyber Pass. Various proposals exist to extend these lines on to Kandahar and Kabul respectively. In 2010, Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a Memorandum of understanding for going ahead with the laying of rail tracks between the two countries. Work on the proposed project was set to start in late 2010.
Air transport in Afghanistan is provided by Ariana Afghan Airlines, Afghan Jet International, East Horizon Airlines, Kam Air, Pamir Airways, and Safi Airways. Airlines from a number of nations also provide air services to fly in and out of the country. These include Air India, Emirates, Gulf Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Turkish Airlines and others.
The nation has at least four international airports, including the Hamid Karzai International Airport (Kabul International Airport) followed by Herat International Airport, Kandahar International Airport, and Mazar-e Sharif International Airport. There are a total of about 43 airports. Twenty-five of them have paved runways. Four of them have runways over 3,000 meters; three have runways between about 2,500 and 3,000 meters; eight have runways between 1500 and 2500 meters; and two have runways under 1000 meters.
Bagram Air Base is used by NATO-led forces. It has heavy military 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.
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 Shir Khan Bandar.
There are petroleum pipelines from Bagram into Uzbekistan and Shindand into Turkmenistan. These pipelines have been in disrepair and disuse for years. There are 180 kilometers of natural gas pipelines. The $10 billion Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline for delivering natural gas across Afghanistan into Pakistan is moving forward.
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