The Great Game's new wrinkle: Railroads from Afghanistan to *stan and Bandar-Abbas

United States plans to link the countries of Central Asia by new rail lines with Afghanistan. At the same time, Washington opposes neither the construction of a railway corridor from Central Asia through Iran, nor Chinese extensions of its national rail system into the area. Nevertheless, according to analysts at the Moscow Strategic Culture Foundation, these overlapping transportation development projects threaten to spark a new "railroad war" in the Central Asian region--one that in the absence of counter-efforts by the Russian Federation is likely to result in a sharp reduction of Moscow's influence over the countries there.

Washington's plan is the most far-reaching, at least immediately, the Foundation suggests. According to the just-released quarterly report prepared by the US special inspector for reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, the United States is currently promoting the creating of a new railway network in that country, one that will link with the national railroad systems of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. These countries will, as a result, be able for the first time to ship their products through the Iranian port of Bandar-Abbas via a corridor that, in the words of the report, "will be free from Russian influence"

The US-backed Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation effort calls for the construction of approximately 2,000 kilometers of new railways in Afghanistan, a project to be paid for by the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as by contributions from interested neighboring countries such as India and Pakistan.

A year ago, the Moscow foundation continues, the leaders of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran agreed on the need for cooperation in order to accelerate the construction of a railroad from Iran to Tajikistan through Afghanistan, according to Western news reports. And Washington reportedly approved "this initiative" because it fits in with the US "Silk Road" program and reinforces the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces have been using as a supply route to Afghanistan.

Instead, the Foundation's analysts suggest, the US has a broader and, from Moscow's point of view, more threatening purpose: "to cut off Central Asia from Russia in the transportation and communication sectors."

Beijing's plans to link the Central Asian countries with China's national rail system.
Posted by: Water Modem 2013-02-21