Kunduz-Khulm National Highway – Infrastructure Triggers Economic Revival

The road network in northern Afghanistan is not adequately developed. The roads are in a poor state of repair. Some have been destroyed by fighting, but most were already unsurfaced dirt or gravel tracks even before. In many areas there is no direct connection between towns, while other rural areas have practically no road links.


In order to get from Kunduz to Mazar-e Sharif, car and truck drivers have to take a 120 km detour south via the city of Pol-e Khomri. Instead of driving the 112 km directly from Kunduz to Khulm, the detour forces them to drive 234 km, doubling their driving time, fuel consumption, transport costs and CO2 emissions. The lack of connection between Kunduz and the economic hub of Mazar-e Sharif is a major obstacle for logistics and the economic development of the region.


A 111.5-kilometre stretch of the old Silk Road between Kunduz and the town of Khulm, which previously was no more than a gravel track, is developed and asphalted. Improving the National Highway promotes economic development, helps the northern provinces grow together and contributes to poverty reduction and the peace process. Kunduz is better linked to the economic hub of Mazar-e Sharif, giving some 1.7 million people better access to markets and health care services.

Measures and Results

The National Highway between Kunduz and Khulm is being developed on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and will be handed over to the Afghan Ministry of Transport. The road runs through rough, and at times steep terrain. It will be straightened and widened at the Ayrganak pass so that even large trucks will be able to use it without problems. The direct connection that the road creates will shorten the driving distance and time between Kunduz and Khulm by about half.

Four-stage construction

Construction of the National Highway is being carried out in four phases. The first two sections, from Khulm to kilometre 58, were completed at the end of 2017, and the first half of the third extension phase, to  kilometre 68, was completed in September 2018. Local residents and representatives of the councils of elders have been closely consulted during the construction work. This helps to make the project more secure. Despite the difficult conditions, the construction work has so far been able to continue without disruption.

High potential for future use

The first two sections of the road, a stretch of 6.5 km from Kunduz in a westerly direction towards the district of Chardarrah and a stretch of 8 km from Khulm eastwards, lead through densely populated and intensively farmed areas. Due to the poor condition of the road, some of which is still unsurfaced, and the security risks in the vicinity of Chardarrah in particular, the road is currently only used to a very limited extent. The impact of the project will only become apparent once the construction work is completed. Studies and surveys have indicated that up to 1,300 vehicles per day will use the new National Highway in the year of its completion.

Local residents benefit

The local population will also benefit from construction of the road thanks to numerous infrastructure improvements. Most people in the region depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The National Highway will make it easier for them to transport their goods, thus facilitating access to markets. Along the National Highway, wells will be drilled and access routes created. This additional construction work helps to build trust and increases the acceptance and support for the project among local residents. A cash-for-work programme gives people living in neighbouring villages the opportunity to earn additional income for themselves and their families during the construction period.


At a glance

Kunduz–Khulm National Highway (HKK)
Commissioned by:
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Afghan Ministry of Transport (MoT)
Implementing organisations:
KfW Development Bank
Balkh, Kunduz
Programme objective:
To improve the National Highway between Kunduz and Khulm to contribute to economic development of the northern provinces
Overall term:
September 2010 – December 2023