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Cablegate: Logar Province: Chromite Smuggling Undermines Afghan

VZCZCXRO3947
RR RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0325 0401019
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091019Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2740
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//JF/UNMA//
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS KABUL 000325

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-82, POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KCOR ECON EINV EMIN PK AF
SUBJECT: Logar Province: Chromite Smuggling Undermines Afghan
Government

REF: KABUL 0108

1. (SBU) Summary: Logar Province's Governor, Provincial Council
(PC), and Members of Parliament (MPs) decried the widespread
smuggling of chromite (a mineral used in the manufacture of steel
and chemicals) by Pakistani smuggling mafias. The officials have
repeatedly raised the issue with Minister of Mines Adel and have
also unsuccessfully asked the Ministry of Interior (MOI) to secure
the mines. Logar officials recognize that a potential valuable
source of revenue for the GIRoA is lost. They are concerned that
smuggling mafias contribute to the vulnerable security situation in
Logar and are a corrupting influence on local officials. Governor
Wardak, the Provincial Council (PC), and Logar MPs have agreed to
work together to keep the pressure on the central government and are
pushing for mine security and a transparent bidding process for mine
exploitation.

LARGE-SCALE CHROMITE SMUGGLING TO PAKISTAN
------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) The Logar PC first raised the issue of wholesale chromite
smuggling from 14 sites in five Logar districts in December 2007.
(The five districts are Pul-i Alam, Mohammad Agha, Kharwar, Azra,
and Baraki Barak. Of these, Kharwar has the worst security
situation in Logar with significant anti-Coalition militia (ACM)
presence. The other districts all suffer from varying levels of
criminal activity and sporadic ACM presence.) PC members alleged
that Pakistani smuggling mafias organized the operations. According
to PC members, except during the winter when the roads are
impassable, Pakistani smugglers pay off local authorities,
especially the Afghan police, so they can smuggle large quantities
of chromite. The PC members, who regularly visit the five
districts, estimate that the smugglers fill approximately 400 large
trucks per month during an eight-month period of good weather. Each
truck can hold 20-25 tons of chromite. These are surface deposits,
and the smugglers use local labor to extract the mineral.

3. (SBU) The PC members stated their sources told them chromite is
sold in Pakistan for about USD 100 per ton. The smuggling routes
are the Azra to Pul-i Alam road, then the Pul-i Alam to Jaji
district (Paktia province) road, and across the Paktia-Pakistan
border. A second route is the Pul-i Alam to Gardez (Paktia) road
through the Tera Pass, then from Gardez to Khost through the
Khost-Gardez Pass, and across the Khost-Pakistan border. The
smugglers reportedly pay off local police and border guards and
avoid public scrutiny by moving the loads at night. One Logar MP
said that the smugglers had made an attempt on the life of Azra
district's police chief in July 2007 because the police chief was
trying to stop the smugglers. The smugglers put an IED along the
Azra road targeting the police chief, but missed him and instead
killed three of his bodyguards. According to Logar officials, the
locals understood the smugglers' message and now abet the smugglers
by providing local labor and/or looking the other way.

4. (SBU) PRTOff made inquiries with Pul-i Alam district officials
and with technical staff at the Ministry of Mines (MOM) to determine
whether a survey of Logar chromite mines had been undertaken. None
of the officials knew of any past surveys. PRTOff raised the issue
with Logar Governor Wardak, who stated he is pressing the MOM to
open an office in Pul-i Alam and name a provincial line director to
do a technical study of chromite deposits. PRTOff briefed the Czech
Republic's advance team preparing to install a PRT in Logar in
March. The civilian head of the team committed to follow up on the
issue and said that the Czech PRT team would include a geologist.

5. (SBU) Although there is not enough information to determine the
potential value of Logar's apparently large and easily extractable
chromite deposits, it is clear from the smugglers' level of activity
that it is highly profitable. Unfortunately, until the central
government focuses on this issue, it will continue to lose revenue
it can ill afford to ignore. We will raise this question with
Minister Adel at the next opportunity, and ask how addressing these
issues might fit into his plans for MOM activities in 2008 (ref).

WOOD

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