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of freight predicted for the initial stage is 7 million 
tons a year, subsequently rising to 20 million tons.
main obstacles to the Economic reconstruction 
of Afghanistan: A View from Uzbekistan
Regarding Afghanistan as an inseparable part of 
Central Asia, Uzbekistan focuses its main efforts on 
the search for mechanisms to rebuild the country. At 
the same time, it is understood in Uzbekistan that the 
current level of economic relations with Afghanistan 
is extremely low and does not correspond to the 
interests of either country. However, the chief rea-
sons for this have very little to do with Uzbekistan 
and Afghanistan themselves, but rather because the 
“Afghan problem” is a direct result of the global con-
frontation of the Cold War period. It is therefore ap-
propriate that the main measures for the reconstruc-
tion of Afghanistan should also be international in 
Especially relevant here is an analysis of the in-
ternational effort to aid Afghanistan. It should be rec-
ognized that, hitherto, the aid provided by the inter-
national community has been extremely ineffective 
and has done very little to tackle the country’s under-
lying structural problems. The three main problems 
are as follows:
•  The weakness and ineffectiveness of inter-
national efforts to restore the transportation 
infrastructure of Afghanistan;
•  The weakness and ineffectiveness of interna-
tional efforts to restore the Afghan economy 
and the country’s regional economic ties;
•  The weakness and ineffectiveness of interna-
tional efforts to counter the drug trade.
Not only does the volume of international aid fall far 
short of the real needs of Afghanistan, but even those 
foreign funds that are available are put to extremely 
ineffective use in terms of the contribution they make 
to restoring the country’s economy.
The United States spends enormous financial 
resources in Afghanistan. American financial out-
lays have been increasing year on year. Thus, while 
in 2002-2004 the United States spent about $12 bil-
lion per year, by 2010-2011 annual expenditure had 
already reached around $160 billion; in 2012 the 
White House allocated $110 billion to the war in 
Afghanistan. Nevertheless, practically all this mon-
ey is allocated to maintaining the American military 
presence and the establishment of the new Afghan 
army and force structures. Even these enormous 
outlays have thus failed to normalize the situation 
in Afghanistan. To a large extent this is because the 
United States takes no account whatsoever (or does 
not wish to do so) of the real needs and interests of 
Afghanistan itself. Practically nothing is allocated to 
finding a systemic solution to the problems of restor-
ing the devastated Afghan economy, creating em-
ployment, and normalizing the everyday lives of the 
The Weakness and Ineffectiveness of 
International Efforts to restore the 
Transportation Infrastructure of Afghanistan
The rebuilding of the transportation infrastructure 
of Afghanistan is one of the main preconditions un-
dergirding the country’s economic reconstruction. 
However, international efforts have yet to address 
this issue adequately with the result that the Afghan 
transportation infrastructure today remains weakly 
developed, even though the country in geographic 
terms occupies a very favorable position for the cre-
ation of transportation corridors from Central Asia 
to South Asia, and also to the Middle East. Today 
the country has practically no railway network—
there exists only the 75- kilometer branch line be-
tween Khairaton and Mazar-i-Sharif recently build 
with aid from Uzbekistan. This clearly does not suf-
fice to substantially intensify freight flows through 
Afghanistan. In fact, the sole form of transportation 
in Afghanistan is by motor vehicle. There are about 
21,000 kilometers of motor roads in the country, of 
which only 2,800 kilometers (about 13 percent) have 
a hard surface. Due to the endless fighting and the 
virtual absence of road repairs, however, road surfac-
es are in an extremely unsatisfactory condition, while 
the throughput capacity of the roads themselves is 
small. Moreover, for four to five months of the year 
(late autumn, winter, and early spring) the majority 
of the roads are almost or completely impassable. The 
routes connecting Afghanistan with its neighbors 
also continue to be extremely poor. Consequently, 
Afghanistan’s existing transportation infrastructure 
prevents it from becoming a regional transportation 
crossroads: regional trade flows continue to bypass 
Afghanistan and do not “feed” the process of its re-
construction and development.

Vladimir Paramonov and Alexey Strokov
The Weakness and Ineffectiveness of 
International Efforts to restore the Afghan 
Economy and the country’s regional Economic 
In the course of over 30 years of continuous armed 
conflict, all branches of Afghan industry (including 
those created with Soviet assistance in the 1960s and 
1970s) have been destroyed. The situation in agricul-
ture also fares only marginally better with there hav-
ing been a sharp decline in the volume of agricultural 
output as a result of the fighting and mass migration 
from the villages. The country has become increas-
ingly dependent upon deliveries of food from abroad. 
The collapse of the Afghan economy in turn deter-
mines the weakness of the country’s regional eco-
nomic ties from which it finds itself cut off. For ex-
ample, over the period 2002-2011 the five neighbors 
of Afghanistan (Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, 
Tajikistan, and Pakistan) together accounted for only 
some 10 percent of its foreign trade turnover.
It is obvious that the reconstruction of 
Afghanistan requires, therefore, large-scale invest-
ment in the country’s industry and agriculture as 
well as the development of economic ties with neigh-
boring countries. If this is to be achieved it is essen-
tial that cooperation between Afghanistan and its 
neighbors be bolstered and accelerated. However, the 
near total absence of international aid to Afghanistan 
directed toward the restoration of its industrial and 
agro-industrial sectors, combined with the weakness 
of the country’s regional economic relations, make 
it impossible even to tackle this crucial task. While 
international donors allocated a portion of funding 
to the restoration of certain Afghan roads (mainly 
those used to supply the NATO troops deployed in 
Afghanistan), the prospects for the reconstruction of 
Afghanistan’s industry and agriculture remain hazy.
The Weakness and Ineffectiveness of 
International Efforts to counter the drug Trade
The most important obstacle to the reconstruction 
of Afghanistan—and therefore to the development 
of Uzbek-Afghan economic cooperation—is the 
growing resistance of the international drug cartels. 
Moreover, it was precisely after the Taliban regime 
was overthrown and NATO forces arrived that the 
production of drugs in Afghanistan began to rise rap-
idly. According to UN data, the production of heroin 
in Afghanistan rose by 61 percent from 3,600 tons in 
2010 to 5,800 tons in 2011—a figure that exceeds 90 
percent of global output. A similar quantity of other 
drugs is also produced in Afghanistan. Altogether, 
over the ten years since the start of the “antiterrorist 
campaign” the production of drugs in Afghanistan 
has increased by a factor of 40.
The international drugs business is a powerful 
force in Afghanistan—financially and organization-
ally incomparably stronger than the Karzai govern-
ment and, apparently, even stronger than the forces 
of the American-led anti-terrorist coalition. Indeed, 
according to certain estimates, revenues from the 
sale of Afghan drugs are in the magnitude of $640 
billion a year, while the incomes of Afghan farmers 
and the revenues of the Afghan government togeth-
er amount to just $4 billion a year. Therefore, in or-
der to maintain its control over this hugely lucrative 
business, the drug cartels have an objective interest in 
keeping the central government in Kabul weak and in 
perpetuating the situation of “smoldering conflict” in 
In sum, the process of reconstruction in 
Afghanistan—and also the development of Afghan-
Uzbek economic ties—is making little headway, with 
the international community yet to devise a clear, 
coherent, and agreed upon international program to 
provide funds and resources for this task.
Conspicuous by its absence has been the po-
tential contribution of regional cooperation to this 
task, which, instead, has been almost completely 
neglected. All this renders international efforts to 
reconstruct the Afghan economy and provide securi-
ty in the country even less effective than they would 
otherwise be. As a result, Afghanistan has entered 
a vicious circle. On the one hand, without targeted 
international investment in the development of the 
Afghan economy (transportation, industry, agricul-
ture) and stimulation of regional cooperation there 
can be no guarantee of even a modicum of stabili-
ty in Afghanistan, but, on the other hand, without 
any guarantee of stability there will be no regional 
cooperation or large-scale foreign investment in the 
Afghan economy.
Prospects for the reconstruction of Afghanistan: 
main recommendations
The effectiveness of any efforts targeted at the eco-
nomic reconstruction of Afghanistan will to a large 

Constraints and Opportunities for Uzbek-Afghan Economic Relations
extent be determined by the success or failure of the 
following top-priority measures:
1. Creation of a More Effective International 
Mechanism for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan
It seems to us that the main potential for a fundamen-
tal solution to the problems of Afghanistan lies in the 
creation of a more effective international mechanism 
to implement targeted programs for the reconstruc-
tion of the Afghan economy. Any new program must 
satisfy the following basic conditions: (1) active par-
ticipation by the leading powers, international do-
nors, and Afghanistan’s neighbors; (2) the setting of 
priorities for reconstruction; (3) the greatest possible 
transparency of international money flows; and (4) 
strict control over the use of international financial 
and material resources. Even at the initial stage of 
their implementation, these measures might give a 
powerful impulse to regional economic cooperation. 
From the economic point of view, the most efficient 
way to carry out reconstruction work in northern 
Afghanistan is to involve companies and specialists 
from Uzbekistan.
2. Accelerated Building of Transportation Arteries
The issue of building trans-Afghan transportation 
arteries is of fundamental importance. In thus do-
ing, the idea of creating an international transpor-
tation consortium for Afghanistan would appear 
to be worthy of consideration. The members of the 
consortium could be those states with a direct in-
terest in developing a network of transportation ar-
teries to connect the regions of Central Asia, South 
Asia, and the Middle East by the shortest possible 
routes. The building of trans-Afghan arteries may 
lead to a significant expansion of economic ties 
between Afghanistan and its neighbors. Moreover, 
transportation costs in Afghanistan and in a num-
ber of other countries (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and 
also countries of South Asia) may fall by over 60 
This in turn may expand the international 
flow of goods through Afghanistan, which in it-
self will speed up the reconstruction of the coun-
try. For Uzbekistan, for example, a route through 
Afghanistan to ports on the Indian Ocean would 
reduce by more than half the distance to ports on 
the Baltic and Black Seas; the former route would 
also be almost 80 percent shorter than routes to 
ports on the Pacific Ocean. The trans-Afghan 
route of greatest interest to Uzbekistan would start 
at Termez, pass through Mazar-i-Sharif, Shibargan, 
Herat, and Kandahar, and continue to internation-
al seaports in Iran (Chakhbakhar and Bender-
Abbas) and in Pakistan (Karachi). Another vital 
consideration is that development of the Afghan 
transportation infrastructure may be one of the 
decisive factors in normalizing the socio-eco-
nomic situation in Afghanistan, at the same time 
as undermining the positions of extremist forces 
and the drugs business in the country. Turning 
Afghanistan into a transportation hub connecting 
Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East is 
objectively in the interests of all strata of Afghan 
society. The large-scale development of transporta-
tion infrastructure could substantially expand the 
circulation of goods among these regions through 
Afghanistan. This will create many new jobs, help 
to solve the problem of unemployment, and poten-
tially lead to a significant raise in the incomes of 
the Afghan population.
3. Development of Industrial and Agricultural 
Cooperation between Afghanistan and Its 
In the course of implementing various international 
projects in Afghanistan, industrial and agricultural 
cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors 
may give significant impetus to the country’s eco-
nomic development. Thus, Uzbekistan together with 
other states might assume responsibility for a broad 
spectrum of work to restore Afghan agriculture, in-
frastructure, and industrial and social facilities. This 
would substantially increase the effectiveness of all 
international aid to Afghanistan, and especially to 
the country’s northern provinces. One reason for 
this is that Afghanistan’s main industrial facilities, 
which in the 1970s (before military-political desta-
bilization) accounted for over 60 percent of GDP, 
used to be concentrated in the northern provinces. 
There are also specific opportunities to accelerate 
the reconstruction process in the agrarian sector. 
A promising approach might be for Afghanistan 
and neighboring states to jointly establish bilater-
al and multilateral agricultural holding companies 
specializing in animal husbandry (for instance, the 
breeding of Astrakhan sheep) and the cultivation 
and processing of cotton, fruits, and vegetables. 
This would make it possible to offer Afghan farmers 
alternative crops to replace the opium poppy—fur-
thermore, crops that would be in stable demand on 
the world market.

Vladimir Paramonov and Alexey Strokov
Greater international attention to the economic re-
construction and development of Afghanistan and to 
its integration into the system of regional ties would 
make it possible to come closer to solving the diffi-
cult problems of security both in Afghanistan itself 
and at the interregional and global level. A funda-
mental re-examination in this light of the current 
international program of aid to Afghanistan (with a 
focus on transportation projects within Afghanistan 
and on enhanced economic cooperation between 
Afghanistan and its neighbors) may provide the 
necessary impulse to set in motion the country’s re-
construction. It seems to us that the key to solving 
the “Afghan problem” lies in fundamentally chang-
ing the situation not only within but also around 
Afghanistan—above all, the obvious inadequacy of 
international aid.
Only this will make it possible for more decisive 
steps to be taken to strengthen the central govern-
ment in Kabul and weaken the positions of destruc-
tive forces. The stabilization and steady development 
of Afghanistan would signify a major victory of the 
entire international community in the fight against 
global terrorism and extremism and the internation-
al drug trade. This will also make it easier to normal-
ize the situation in other regions of the world, includ-
ing the Middle East, because international terrorist 
organizations will no longer have a support base in 
Afghanistan. Furthermore, the building of transpor-
tation arteries through a stabilized Afghanistan may 
produce a global economic effect. This has the poten-
tial to greatly strengthen economic ties between the 
maritime and continental regions of Eurasia, correct 
the current imbalance in their economic develop-
ment, and ensure long-term stability in Eurasia as a 

About the central Asia Program (cAP)
The Central Asia Program (CAP) at George Washington University promotes high-quality academic research on con-
temporary Central Asia, and serves as an interface for the policy, academic, diplomatic, and business communities. 
The Central Asia Program focuses on the wider Central Asian space, which includes the five post-Soviet Central 
Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Xinjiang, 
Mongolia, as well as the Volga-Ural region, Kashmir, and Balochistan. 
The program calls for a multidisciplinary approach combining the fields of political science, sociology, anthropology, 
economics, history, globalization studies, development studies, and security studies. It provides a platform for different, 
and even sometimes contradictory, points of view on contemporary Central Asia. 
Research on Central Asia tends to be carried out all too often by geographically compartmentalized groups. Central 
Asia Program strives to bring together counterparts from the United States, Europe, Russia, Asia, and Central Asia by 
promoting various forms of interaction and initiating joint projects. 
Recognizing the increasing importance of Central Asia in the 21st Century, the Central Asia Program is a dynamic 
initiative that seeks to be at the forefront of the debate on the region. 
For more on the Central Asia Program, please visit: 
The George Washington University 
1957 E St. NW
Suite 412
Washington, D.C. 20052 

Central Asia Program
Institute for European, Russian 
and Eurasian Studies 
Elliott School of International Affairs 
The George Washington University
Academic knowledge on Uzbekistan blossomed in the 
1990s, before drying up in the 2000s and 2010s with 
the closure of the country and the increased difficulty 
of doing fieldwork. However, research has continued, 
whether directly, on the ground, or indirectly, 
through secondary sources or diasporic and migrant 
communities abroad. The death of the ‘father of the 
nation,’ Islam Karimov, in fall 2016, partly changed 
the conditions and may slowly reopen the country to 
external observers and to regional cooperation and 
interaction with the world more broadly. This volume 
offers a unique collection of articles on Uzbekistan 
under Karimov, giving the floor to scholars from 
diverse disciplines. It looks at critical issues of history 
and memory, at dramatic societal and cultural change 
the country faced during two decades, at the domestic 
political order, and at change and continuity in Uzbek 
regional and foreign policies.
Central Asia Program, Associate Director 
and Research Professor, IERES, 
The George Washington University
Laura Adams, Timur Dadabaev, Rashid 
Gabdulhakov, Farrukh Irnazarov, Voiker 
Jacoby, Marina Kayumova, Sarah Kendzior, 
Adeeb Khalid, Valery Khan, Nariya Khasanova, 
Erica Marat, Lawrence P. Markowitz, Gul Berna 
Ozcan, Yevgenia Pak, Vladimir Paramonov, 
Mirzokhid Rakhimov, Farkhod Tolipov, Yulia 
Tsyryapkina, Noah Tucker, Rano Turaeva, 
Akmed Said, Alexey Strokov, Richard Weitz, 
and Guli Yuidasheva
ISBN 978-0-9988143-7-7
UZBEKISTAN: Political Order, Societal Changes, 
and Cultural Transformations
 is part of a series 
dedicated to the 5th a nniversary of the Central Asia 
 Political Order, Societal Changes, and Cultural Transformations

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