Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai and President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan cut a ribbon formally dedicating the new Pyanj River bridge connecting the Tajik city of Nizhny Pyanj with the Afghan port of Shir Khan Bandar. President Karzai said the nearly seven-hundred meter structure is a link that “unites Central Asia with Southern and Eastern Asia.” President Rahmon said it will “strengthen the old and vital relations of [the] two countries and two peoples.”
The United States provided thirty-seven million of the thirty-eight million dollars that financed the project. Other contributors include Norway, Japan, and the European Union. “The Afghanistan-Tajikistan Bridge is a critical transit route for trade and commerce,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. With a capacity of up to one-thousand vehicles daily, the bridge will help connect a regional highway system eventually extending from Karachi, Pakistan, to Astana, Kazakhstan. This will include a network of more than four-thousand kilometers of roads within Afghanistan that have been constructed or rebuilt since 2001.
Afghanistan and Tajikistan have reportedly agreed to create free economic zones on both sides of the bridge and ease customs and visa requirements. Modern border posts and customs facilities, co-funded by the U.S. and the European Union, will include state of the art scanning equipment for vehicles and cargo. According to the World Bank, the bridge will shorten, by nearly half, the distance Tajik goods have to travel to the nearest accessible seaport.
Trade between Afghanistan and Tajikistan was valued at more than twenty-five million dollars in 2006. That amount is expected to double over the next five years. U.S., Tajik, and Afghan officials also hope the bridge will encourage greater cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan on security issues.
President George W. Bush says the U.S. wants to see a democratic and prosperous Afghanistan:
“We’re working closely together to help the people of Afghanistan prosper. We work together to give the people of Afghanistan a chance to raise their children in a hopeful world."
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said the Pyanj River bridge “is an example of America’s commitment to help the people of Central and South Asia find peace, stability and prosperity.”