Afghan Rail Expansion Plans to Help Access $3 Trillion in Mineral Wealth
Plans to massively expand the Afghan rail network are key to realizing vast untapped natural resources and ultimately develop economic independence.
Afghan officials have announced plans for a massive rail network project to support the nascent mining sector, an industry that may have as much as $3 trillion in untapped iron, copper, gold and lithium deposits.
It was not until 2010 that Afghanistan completed the construction of its first regularly functioning railway track, a 75-kilometer route linking the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to the Uzbekistan border. The proposed expansion will be implemented incrementally, initially connecting Mazar-i-Sharif to Andkhoi on the Turkmenistan border, opening a link all the way to the Caspian Sea within two years. Concurrent projects also include a route from Kandahar to Chaman on the Pakistani border, providing access to the Arabian Sea.
The Afghan Minister of Mining, Wahidullah Shahrani, told reporters that the rail project would be a vital element in exploiting the untapped mineral deposits to reduce the country’s reliance on Western funding which will ultimately help to prop up its economy and maintain security beyond the scheduled military drawdown. Paul Brinkley, head of a Pentagon think-tank called the Task Force for Business Stability Operations (TFBSO), said that “Afghanistan in 20 years is going to be a mining country… This is a resource the Afghans are beginning to understand offers them a future.”
The presiding Railway Authority is currently being established and installed, with technical assistance being provided by the European Commission and financing from the Asian Development Bank. A report from the TFBSO has highlighted some of the obstacles likely to face the development of both the railway and the relevant authority, noting weak government and entrenched corruption. In an interview Brinkley noted that there was a danger that Afghan minerals could become the blood diamonds of the Middle East. Shahrani responded to similar concerns saying that the Ministry was not worried and that in addition to existing Afghan security forces, a special Mines Protection Unit had been set up.
In 2001, Move One was the first international logistics company to operate in newly liberated Afghanistan, supporting US and Coalition Forces, as well as humanitarian efforts. Move One Logistics entered the country leading the first military convoy, comprising only the third, fourth and fifth vehicles to cross the Friendship Bridge in seven years. The Uzbek-Afghan border was subsequently reopened nearly a decade after the last Soviet commander retreated.
With eleven strategically located offices in Afghanistan alone, Move One Logistics has the experience and resources necessary to handle any logistical requirement in the region. Services range from secure convoys, warehousing and online shipment tracking to air, sea, road and rail services, as well as purchase order management.
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