|Literal meaning||Wakhan Corridor|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||Afghan Corridor|
|Second alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||Wakhan Pamir|
The Wakhan Corridor (Pashto: , W?x?n Dahléz, Persian: ) is a narrow strip of territory in Afghanistan, extending to China and separating Tajikistan from Pakistan and Kashmir. The corridor, wedged between the Pamir Mountains to the north and the Karakoram range to the south, is about 350 km (220 mi) long and 13-65 kilometres (8-40 mi) wide. From this high mountain valley the Panj and Pamir Rivers emerge and form the Amu Darya. A trade route through the valley has been used by travellers going to and from East, South and Central Asia since antiquity.
The corridor was formed by an 1893 agreement between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan, creating the Durand Line. This narrow strip of Afghanistan acted as a buffer between the Russian Empire (Russian Turkestan, present-day Tajikistan) and the British Empire (British India). Its eastern end bordered China's Xinjiang region, ruled by the Qing dynasty.
Politically, the corridor is in the Wakhan District of Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province. As of 2010, the Wakhan Corridor had 12,000 inhabitants. The northern part of the Wakhan, populated by the Wakhi and Pamiri peoples, is also referred to as the Pamir.
The Wakhan Corridor forms the panhandle of Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province. At its western entrance near the Afghan town of Ishkashim, the corridor is 18 km (11 mi) wide. The western third of the corridor varies from 13-30 km (8-19 mi) in width and widens to 65 km (40 mi) in the central Wakhan. At its eastern end, the corridor forks into two prongs that wrap around a salient of Chinese territory, forming the 92 km (57 mi) boundary between the two countries, with the easternmost village in the corridor, Qala-e Mafushad, being located in the northern prong. The Wakhjir Pass, which is the easternmost point on the southeastern prong, is about 300 km (190 mi) from Ishkashim. The easternmost point of the northeastern prong is a nameless wilderness about 350 km (220 mi) from Ishkashim. On the Chinese side of the border is the Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The northern border of the corridor is formed by the Pamir River and Lake Zorkul in the west and the high peaks of the Pamir Mountains in the east. To the north is Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous region. To the south, the corridor is bounded by the high mountains of the Hindu Kush and Karakoram. Along the southern flank of the corridor, there are two mountain passes which connect the corridor to its neighbours. The Broghol pass offers access to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, while the Irshad Pass connects the corridor to Gilgit Baltistan. The Dilisang Pass, which also connects to Gilgit-Baltistan, is disused. The easternmost pass, as indicated above, is the Wakhjir Pass, which connects to China and is the only border connection between that country and Afghanistan.
The corridor is higher in the east than in the west; (the Wakhjir Pass is 4,923 m (16,152 ft) in elevation) and descends to about 3,037 m (9,964 ft) at Ishkashim. The Wakhjir River emerges from an ice cave on the Afghan side of the Wakhjir Pass and flows west, joining the Bozai Darya near the village of Bozai Gumbaz to form the Wakhan River. The Wakhan River then joins the Pamir River near Kala-i-Panj to form the Panj River, which then flows out of the Wakhan Corridor at Ishkashim.
The Chinese consider Chalachigu Valley, the valley east of Wakhjir Pass on the Chinese side connecting Taghdumbash Pamir, to be part of the Wakhan Corridor. The high mountain valley is about 100 km (60 mi) long. This valley, through which the Tashkurgan River flows, is generally about 3-5 km (2-3 mi) wide and less than 1 km (0.6 mi) at its narrowest point. This entire valley on the Chinese side is closed to visitors; however, local residents and herders from the area are permitted access.
Although the terrain is extremely rugged, the Corridor was historically used as a trading route between Badakhshan and Yarkand. It appears that Marco Polo came this way. The Portuguese Jesuit priest Bento de Goes crossed from the Wakhan to China between 1602 and 1606. In May 1906, Sir Aurel Stein explored the Wakhan and reported that at that time, 100 pony loads of goods crossed annually to China. There were further crossings in 1874 by Captain T.E. Gordon of the British Army, in 1891 by Francis Younghusband, and in 1894 by Lord Curzon.
Early travellers used one of three routes:
The corridor is in part a political creation from The Great Game between the United Kingdom and Russian Empire. In the north, an agreement between the empires in 1873 effectively split the historic region of Wakhan by making the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between Afghanistan and the Russian Empire. In the south, the Durand Line agreement of 1893 marked the boundary between British India and Afghanistan. This left a narrow strip of land ruled by Afghanistan as a buffer between the two empires, which became known as the Wakhan Corridor in the 20th century.
The corridor has been closed to regular traffic for over a century and there is no modern road. There is a rough road from Ishkashim to Sarhad-e Broghil built in the 1960s, but only rough paths beyond. These paths run some 100 km (60 mi) from the road end to the Chinese border at Wakhjir Pass, and further to the far end of the Little Pamir.
Jacob Townsend has speculated on the possibility of drug smuggling from Afghanistan to China via the Wakhan Corridor and Wakhjir Pass, but concluded that due to the difficulties of travel and border crossings, it would be minor compared to that conducted via Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province or through Pakistan, both having much more accessible routes into China.
The remoteness of the region has meant that, despite the long running wars of Afghanistan since the late 1970s, the region has remained virtually untouched by conflict and many locals, who are mostly composed of ethnic Pamir and Kyrgyz, are not aware of wars in the country.
The government of Afghanistan has asked the People's Republic of China on several occasions to open the border in the Wakhan Corridor for economic reasons or as an alternative supply route for fighting the Taliban insurgency. The Chinese have resisted, largely due to unrest in its far western province of Xinjiang, which borders the corridor. In December 2009 , it was reported that the United States had asked China to open the corridor.
The Sino-Afghan border was delimited in a secret treaty signed during November 1963. The corridor shares a border with Pakistan to its south and Tajikistan to its north.
In addition, the Soviet Union is separated from Pakistani territory by a small strip commonly known as the Wakhan corridor. Theoretically the Soviet Union does not have a common border with Pakistan but in view of their close linkage with Afghanistan and the shortness of Wakhan's breadth make it an immediate neighbour for all practical purposes.
The Chitral and Kalash valleys of the Hindu Kush Mountains are located north of the Swat Valley in the Chitral district of the North-West Frontier Province and are bordered by Afghanistan on the north, south, and west. The Wakhan Corridor separates Chitral from Tajikistan.