Tajikistan starts flights to Kabul, plans more bridges to Afghanistan

Thu Mar 28, 8:09 AM ET

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan - (AP) Tajikistan's national airline on Thursday began passenger service to Afghanistan and officials announced plans to build five bridges connecting the countries.

Both moves apparently reflect increased confidence in Afghanistan's stability following the fall of the Taliban and growing recognition of Tajikistan's importance as a conduit for aid and materiel badly needed by Afghanistan.

The Tajikistan Airlines decision to open service between Dushanbe and Kabul, the Afghan capital, was largely in response to demand by businessmen, airline officials said. The flights are expected to go once a week.

Most of the 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) Tajikistan-Afghanistan border is defined by the Pyandzh River, which currently is spanned only by two pontoon bridges.

Officials said that an agreement signed Wednesday between Tajikistan, the interim Afghanistan administration and the Aga Khan Foundation foresees the building of five bridges, which would have a capacity of more than 25 tons.