I recently had the pleasure to meet in Washington with Munir Merali, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) Representative for Tajikistan. The AKDN is a global organization doing great work in health and humanitarian assistance in Tajikistan. The AKDN has also taken the initiative to sponsor cross-border energy and education activities with Afghanistan, building an important bridge between these two countries.
Mr. Merali showed me amazing photos from his recent trip to Khorog, where he traveled with the U.S., Afghan, French, and Russian ambassadors for the graduation ceremony of the University of Central Asia. At the ceremony, over 60 Afghan students graduated, the first time in 90 years that Afghans graduated on what is now Tajik soil. Moreover, 14 of the Afghan graduates were women. Mr. Merali also described his efforts to build a regional diagnostic center and laboratory at the Khorog General Hospital, which could train Afghan doctors and service the Afghan population. He hopes to build on U.S. assistance to extend Pamir Energy's transmission to provide electricity to some 1,500 households, across the border.
AKDN's activities complement U.S. efforts to embed Afghanistan into the regional economy by creating sustainable economic and social linkages. There are several other U.S.-funded programs centered in Tajikistan that build ties between the two countries:
- The USAID Regional Trade Liberalization and Customs Project Export Partnerships Initiative trained 55 competitively selected business managers and business association leaders from Central Asia and Afghanistan. Several participating companies have identified synergies and agreed to form export partnerships. Companies from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are planning to collaborate to export footwear to Afghanistan. Twelve textile producers from across the region decided to combine efforts to export their products to Russia.
- A Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement-financed, International Organization for Migration-administered Border Guards Training Center was opened in Khorog (GBAO) in April 2006, with more than 300 Tajik graduates. Since April 2010, the Center hosted five iterations of joint training for Tajik and Afghan Border Guards, with 36 Tajiks and 50 Afghans completing the course. The border post personnel from paired posts on each side of the border train together and the training helps facilitate the flow of legitimate visitors and goods and improving cultural and economic ties between the two countries.