Uzbekistan enhances national security

On Oct. 20, the first train carrying military cargo for coalition forces in Afghanistan passed through Uzbekistan.

Andrey Alexandrov

2009-10-26

TASHKENT — On Oct. 20, the first freight train carrying military cargo for coalition forces in Afghanistan crossed Uzbekistan. Under tight security, the train followed a route that avoided Tashkent.

The country has a railroad network built during the Soviet era and it added a line continuing directly to Afghanistan.

Freight containers will now be loaded onto railway flat-cars from ships at the port of Riga in Latvia and be unloaded in Hairaton, Afghanistan, offering a far more secure route than shipping such cargo through Pakistan. With the country's economy stalled, charges for the transit of military freight will be welcomed by Tashkent.

To make this transit route a reality, Uzbekistan accelerated construction of the Tashguzar-Kumkurgan Railroad to the Afghan border in 2007. It negotiated a US$150 million loan for its completion from the Japanese last summer. Special rails to handle heavy trains that cost US$75 million and 23 freight locomotives were purchased from the Japanese company, Mitsui, with these funds. By 2013, the railway will be fully electrified, which will allow freight trains to travel at higher speeds.

According to expert Tashpulat Yuldashev, when the first American troop train passes through Uzbek territory, the country will become the target of attacks by Taliban insurgents and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) members who cooperate with them.

To counter this threat, Uzbekistan will turn to CIS states. Uzbekistan had distanced itself from involvement in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), but the country's military leadership recently expressed a desire to participate in its next Collective Rapid Deployment Force (CRDF) military training exercises. According to experts, Uzbekistan will develop national security via more active cooperation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which includes a regional anti-terrorism programme.

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