An International Airport as a Transport Hub in the North

In order to promote regional trade, improve transport conditions and safely manage increasing passenger numbers, the German Government is supporting the expansion of Mazar-e Sharif airport. This work will boost the development of the city of Mazar-e Sharif and the overall regional economic area around this transport hub.


Mazar-e Sharif is the capital of Balkh Province and the economic and transport hub for Northern Afghanistan. Although the regional economy is developing well, firms are locating there and jobs are being created, infrastructural expansion has been insufficient. Many of the roads are in a poor state of repair and some are even impassable in winter. This adds to travel and transport costs and increases travel times. The old airport in Mazar-e Sharif did not offer facilities for handling larger volumes of passengers and freight. There is a need to monitor and coordinate increasing air traffic volumes in Afghan airspace in an orderly manner.


The aim is to establish Mazar-e Sharif as a proven national and international transport hub that meets international technical standards and complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules. In this way, airport expansion facilitates economic development.

Measures & Results

Since becoming operational, the airport’s management of passenger and freight transport and its security precautions have met ICAO requirements.

The expanded airport can now handle some 400,000 passengers each year. While the sometimes tense security situation means that the airport is not yet operating at full capacity, there has been a steady increase in the volume of civil and military air traffic in Mazar-e Sharif in recent years. Air traffic control tasks have been transferred gradually to the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority and Afghan air traffic controllers. This is stimulating trade and improving the general economic situation in the country’s northern regions. Over four million people in the airport’s catchment area potentially stand to benefit from the expansion. There has already been some visible progress. More companies are setting up in the area, creating new employment opportunities. The construction phase alone saw 450 people employed at the airport, over two thirds of them from the region. This promotes development both in the city of Mazar-e Sharif and in the region as a whole. It is now also possible to transport patients to the capital Kabul or abroad.

In the long term, the airport is set to decisively improve economic development in the region as an international transport hub between Europe and Asia.

Additionally, the German Government is supporting the modernisation of Afghan air traffic control by introducing the Wide Area Multilateration System, a navigation system suited to the country’s topography. This technology will significantly increase airspace capacity.

At a glance

Activities in the province of Balkh.
Mazar-e Sharif International Airport
Commissioned by:
German Federal Foreign Office, United Arab Emirates
Afghan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, Afghan Civil Aviation Authority
Implementing organisations:
Programme objective:
Expand civil aviation in Mazar-e Sharif by developing the regional airport into a national and international transport hub in line with international standards.
Overall term:
May 2009 – December 2015