Uzbekistan is a relatively small country situated in Central Asia. The landlocked country has a land border measuring 3,865 miles in length. Uzbekistan shares its land border with its five neighboring countries: Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The border is heavily patrolled by security forces and features border barriers on some sections. The exceptionally high level of security is necessary due to security concerns stemming from terrorism activities in Uzbekistan’s neighboring countries. The Afghanistan-Uzbekistan border is among the world’s most-secured international borders featuring two barbed-wire fences and land mines.
Kazakhstan is situated to the north of Uzbekistan, and the two countries share a land border that stretches 1,369 miles. The tripoint connecting the two countries to Turkmenistan marks the start of the border and ends at the tripoint connecting the two countries to Kyrgyzstan. The border separating the two countries was established soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 20th Century. However, the two countries did not agree on the entire delineation of the border and only agreed on about 96% of the border’s demarcation. Their remaining section was on three disputed regions which were Nsan, Bagys, and Arnasai. However, the two countries would reach to an agreement on the demarcation of the entire stretch of the border after resolving all border disputes. For the year, the border had witnessed a spike in drug smuggling enabled by the porous nature of the border. In response, Kazakhstan started the construction of a border barrier over the sections of the border where the smuggling was most rampant. Construction of the barrier began in October 2006 and was financed by the Kazakhstan government. The barrier is made up of an 8-foot high barbed-wire fence which spans a length of about 28 miles.
Turkmenistan shares a long land border with Uzbekistan that is about 1,007 miles long. The tripoint connecting Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan is where the border starts from where it stretches westward and ends at the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan tripoint. Prompted by the rise of illegal cross-border activities, Turkmenistan has a border barrier erected along its border with Uzbekistan. The Turkmen government financed the project which had social and economic ramifications. President Niyazov of Turkmenistan commissioned the construction of the border barrier in March 2001 which was not only aimed at securing Turkmenistan’s border with Uzbekistan but also its border with Kazakhstan. Stretching for over 1,000 miles in length the border barrier is made up of barbed wire. The two countries agreed to bury the hatchet in 2004 with the Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan announcing that the border dispute had been resolved.
Kyrgyzstan is situated east of Uzbekistan, and the two countries share a long land border. The border starts at the tripoint connecting Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and ends at the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan tripoint, covering a distance of 682 miles. The Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border was established after the collapse of the Soviet Union with Uzbekistan being responsible for the unilateral demarcation of the border. The two countries have in the past engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war over the demarcation of the border. The disagreements stem from the original establishment of the border by the Soviet Union in the early 20th Century. The Soviet Union gave little thought to the socioeconomic imbalance the demarcation of the border would have on the people who had lived on the region for millennia. Many of the disputed areas lie near Uzbekistani exclaves found inside Kyrgyzstan territory. Some of these exclaves include Qalacha, Jani-Ayil, Sokh, and Shohimardan. Kyrgyzstan also has an exclave situated inside Uzbekistan’s territory known as Barak which covers an area of 230 hectares. However, leaders drawn from the bordering nations have worked to find a solution to the border dispute and came up with a favorable border treaty.
A significant portion of the border features a long border fence. Uzbekistan commenced construction of the barrier in 1999 as a solution to insecurity and drug smuggling that was happening across the border. Uzbekistan pointed its neighboring country Kyrgyzstan as the source of the Islamic terrorists responsible for terrorist attacks on its capital in 1999. The barrier was built without taking into account its economic and social impact on residents living along the border. On some sections, the barrier straddled across roads effectively rendering them impassable. Economic disenfranchisement caused by the barrier made people take up desperate measures like removing entire sections of the barrier. The erection of the barrier is responsible for social ills such as tearing families apart who now live on opposite sides of the barrier.
Uzbekistan is bound to the southeast by Afghanistan. The two countries have a mutual land border whose length of 89.5 miles is the shortest of Uzbekistan’s international borders. The border runs from the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan tripoint to the tripoint connecting the two countries to Turkmenistan. The border is defined by the course of the Amu Darya River. The border was first demarcated while Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union, with the country retaining the outline of the border after gaining independence. The border separating the two countries is arguably the most-secured in the world, a reputation it shares only with the North Korea-South Korea border. The barrier consists of a barbed-wire fence and another electrified barbed-wire fence. Besides, the border is laden with landmines and is intensively patrolled by security forces from Uzbekistan.
The Friendship Bridge
However, despite being the world’s most heavily guarded border, the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border has one fixed link known as the Friendship Bridge. Nestled across the Amu Darya River, the Friendship Bridge is the sole rail and road crossing on the border and connects Uzbekistan’s town of Termez to Hairatan town in Afghanistan. The bridge was built during the Soviet Era in the late 20th Century. The Friendship Bridge had been closed between 1997 and 2001 due to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan but was reopened to allow the ferrying of humanitarian aid to Afghanis after the fall of the Taliban. The bridge is heavily patrolled on both sides by security forces drawn from the two bordering nations.