Afghanistan and Turkmenistan inaugurated new transport, power and communications links on Thursday as President Ashraf Ghani and Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov participated via teleconference in opening ceremonies for a new branch of the railway connecting the two countries, a new power transmission line and a fibre optic line.
A 500 kilovolt, 153-kilometre power transmission line connecting Kerki, Turkmenistan, to Sheberghan, Afghanistan, is the first leg of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) power project part-financed by the Asian Development Bank. Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, Mazar-i-Sharif, is among the cities slated to receive Turkmen electricity.
Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have been connected by rail since late 2016, and the latest branch extends the line down from the Afghan border settlement of Aqina to Andkhoy, another Afghan town 30 kilometres south.
According to the Turkmen foreign ministry, the opening was “marked by the solemn dispatch from the Aqina station towards the city of Andkhoy of a train consisting of 20 carriages loaded with export products from Turkmenistan”.
A readout on the new fibre optic line said Afghanistan’s communications minister Masoumeh Khavari had praised the project as boosting the country’s “e-government” and internet connectivity drive. The cables connect the customs point of Imamnazar, in Turkmenistan, to Aqina, and Serhetabat, in Turkmenistan, to Torghundi, Afghanistan.
Turkmen foreign minister Rashid Meredov had said in November that Turkmenistan spent $1.25 billion on projects aimed at integration with Afghanistan.
Meredov also said Turkmenistan planned to begin this year construction of the Afghan section of a gas pipeline linking both countries with the large consumer markets of Pakistan and Indi.