Can Hairatan – Mazar-e-Sharif Railway Revitalise Uzbekistan-Afghanistan’s Trade and Economy?

Mazar-e-Sharif railway project
Railway terminal in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan (Credits: Asian Development Bank, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 40 Issue 3
SpecialEurasia OSINT Team

The inauguration of the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line, celebrated at the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border, represents a significant advancement in regional infrastructure. Uzbek company Temir Yollari started the first phase of restoration, dispatching 120 workers.

The project involves the rehabilitation of stations “Port-5” and “Naibabad” in a staged approach. The collaboration aims to bolster trade, enhancing rail connectivity for cargo transportation between the northern provinces of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

However, concerns persist regarding the Taliban’s ability to ensure stability amidst heightened security threats since their takeover in August 2021.

Background Information

The Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line was established in 2010. Currently, Sogdiana Trans is overseeing the reconstruction of the railway line under the agreements made last year. The joint-stock company «O’zbekiston Temir Yo’llari» granted a 50% discount to the Taliban for the project.

The remarkable sixfold increase in Uzbekistan’s trade turnover with Afghanistan underscores the line’s potential impact on trade in 2023, reaching $266 million. Notably, Afghanistan is among Uzbekistan’s top ten trading partners. The rail link envisions stimulating development in agriculture, industry, hydropower, and mining in the region, fostering economic growth on both sides.

Hairatan is the main entry border point with Uzbekistan. It is an important modular hub, reached by road and railway through the Friendship Bridge, and through river crossing barges across the river Amu Darya. Mazar-e-Sharif is the major city in the district. The distance between Hairatan and Mazar is 76 km on a well-paved road.

Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif Railway:
Geopolitical Scenario

The initiation of the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line reconstruction marks a transformative moment in regional connectivity. Uzbekistan Temir Yollari’s deployment of 120 workers underscores the commitment to revitalise this crucial link between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The phased approach to restoration, focusing initially on the Naibabad station, demonstrates the vision for the project.

The substantial increase in trade turnover in 2023 between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan underscores the economic implications. Uzbekistan’s trade turnover with Afghanistan surged sixfold compared to 2022, reaching an impressive $266 million.

The diverse range of traded goods, including electricity, flour, chemical fertilisers, and oil and gas, highlights the multifaceted benefits of the renewed railway link. The increase in trade establishes Afghanistan as one of Uzbekistan’s top ten trading partners, highlighting the railway’s significant role in fostering bilateral economic relations.

However, amidst these promising developments, the collaboration with the Taliban in the railway project raises a critical concern. The extent to which the Taliban, in control since August 2021, can ensure stability and security is crucial for the success of the project.

Increased terrorist activities have marred the geopolitical landscape, notably by groups such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and al-Qaeda. These challenges create a nuanced backdrop against which the economic potential of the railway link must be considered.

Read also | Uzbekistan Economic Performance in 2023, Country’s Future Development and the Karakalpakstan’s Issue

Risk Analysis

The security situation in Afghanistan, particularly since the Taliban’s ascension to power, poses an immediate and pressing risk. Given the rise in terrorist attacks, spearheaded by groups like ISKP and al-Qaeda, a meticulous security strategy is necessary. The Taliban’s commitment to countering these threats and maintaining stability remains uncertain, raising concerns about the overall success and sustainability of the project.

Potential logistical and operational challenges could hinder the economic benefits promised by the railway link. Given the intricate geopolitical landscape, effective communication channels and collaborative mechanisms are crucial for the coordination between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The risk of delays, cost overruns, and operational disruptions looms large, affecting the project’s viability.

The collaboration with the Taliban introduces a layer of political risk. Given the evolving nature of the Taliban’s rule and their ability to address not only security challenges but also foster economic growth, careful monitoring of the dynamics of this engagement is required. The success of the railway project hinges on the Taliban’s capacity to navigate the delicate balance between their ideological stance and the pragmatic requirements of economic development.


In conclusion, while the reconstruction of the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line holds promise for economic development and trade expansion between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, the security situation poses a significant challenge.

A comprehensive risk mitigation strategy, incorporating intelligence-sharing mechanisms and coordinated efforts between the nations involved, is imperative. It is recommended to continue monitoring the security situation in Afghanistan and engage proactively with the Taliban to ensure a stable operational environment. International stakeholders should scrutinise the project’s progress and contribute to the sustainable development of the region.

For those with an interest in acquiring comprehensive insights into the geopolitical dynamics of Central Asia and Afghanistan, we encourage you to reach out to SpecialEurasia by emailing We are ready to assist you in evaluating the possibility of acquiring a carefully crafted and customised report to meet your intelligence requirements.

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