Accessibility links

Breaking News

The Azadi Briefing: Taliban's Investment In Iranian Port Signals Shift Away From Pakistan

Iranian President Hassan Rohani inaugurates the first phase of the Chabahar Port in the southern Iranian coastal city in December 2017.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani inaugurates the first phase of the Chabahar Port in the southern Iranian coastal city in December 2017.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban has said it will invest around $35 million in Iran's strategic Chabahar Port, located in the country’s southeast.

The move announced in late February is seen as an attempt to lessen landlocked Afghanistan's dependence on Pakistani ports to access international markets.

Relations between the Taliban and Pakistan, longtime allies, have plummeted in recent years. Islamabad has accused the Taliban of harboring anti-Pakistani militants.

As bilateral ties have deteriorated, Islamabad has sporadically closed the border with Afghanistan, blocked the transit of Afghan imports, and increased taxes on Afghan exports to Pakistan. The moves have hit traders and the fragile Afghan economy hard.

“Depending on a country that has been heavily involved in Afghanistan’s affairs in such a critical area was not the right thing for Afghanistan,” a senior Taliban official told told Arab News. “Particularly that the economy of the other country is closely tied with politics."

Why It's Important: The Taliban’s decision to turn to Iran to access international markets is a strategic move with regional implications.

Access to the Chabahar Port reduces Afghanistan’s reliance on Pakistan and gives it access to India, Islamabad’s archenemy and Kabul’s traditional ally.

Islamabad has historically been Kabul’s biggest trading partner, but Iran has taken its place in recent years.

In Pakistan, foreign policy experts have expressed concern at Kabul’s expanding trade ties with its other neighbors.

“Pakistan-Afghanistan trade has dwindled from a high of $4 billion to less than a billion now,” former lawmaker Mushahid Hussain Syed wrote on X, previously Twitter.

According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s trade with India increased by 43 percent to $570 million last year.

Since 2002, India has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing Chabahar and linking Afghanistan to the Iranian port.

“As a competitor of Pakistan, India cooperates with any government in Kabul if its relations with Islamabad are tense,” Nasrullah Stanikzai, an Afghan political expert, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

What's Next: The Taliban is following in the footsteps of the former Western-backed Afghan government, which saw the country’s economic future linked with Chabahar.

The cash-strapped Taliban, which remains unrecognized and sanctioned by the international community, is likely to increasingly turn to Iran to increase trade and develop the Afghan economy.

What To Keep An Eye On

The World Bank has said work has resumed on the Afghan section of a $1.2 billion project to build a power line from Central Asia to South Asia.

Work on CASA-1000 was suspended after the Taliban forcibly seized power in Afghanistan in 2021.

The World Bank announced last month that it would move forward with financing pylons and other infrastructure in the Afghan section. The Taliban confirmed the move last week.

The project will allow Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to sell excess energy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the summer months.

Why It's Important: The project, if completed, would be a major boon for the Afghan economy because Kabul will receive cheap hydropower and substantial transit fees.

CASA-1000 has long been seen by Afghanistan as part of its goal to be a regional hub of connectivity and trade.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday. You can always reach us at

  • 16x9 Image

    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.

Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

To subscribe, click here.