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Cablegate: Prt Chaghcharan: No Improvements in Sight to Runway At

VZCZCXRO9587
RR RUEHBW RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1050/01 1191137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281137Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3716
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS 0054
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001050

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO SCA/A, S/CRS, EUR/RPM
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MOPS EAIR PGOV EFIN PREL AF
SUBJECT: PRT CHAGHCHARAN: No Improvements in sight to Runway at
Chaghcharan Airport

REF: Vilnius 272

1. (SBU) Summary: The Chaghcharan airport improvement project has
had an off-again, on-again existence since the Asian Development
Bank (ADB) first provided funding in 2004. The project as
originally conceived by the Afghan government would cost
approximately USD 3 million to refurbish runways, aprons and taxi
ways. In mid-2007, the Lithuanian-led PRT voiced concerns about the
improvements since they would make the runway unsuitable for C-130
traffic, which it can currently receive. The Combined Security
Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) initially expressed interest
in bringing the airport up to the C-130 standard, but was unable to
provide the funding. The Ministry of Transportation and Civil
Aviation (MoTCA) has used up all the ADB funding on cost over-runs
at other airports. The Afghan government has requested additional
funding from the ADB, and Lithuania has tentatively allocated part
of its budget for Afghanistan operations to improve the airport. It
is unlikely that the airstrip will be improved in the near to medium
term.

In The Beginning
----------------
2. (SBU) In November 2004, the ADB provided approximately USD 20
million to the Afghan government for the rehabilitation and widening
of existing runways and construction of aprons and taxi ways at
selected regional airports. The plan was to spend approximately USD
3 million each on seven regional airports. During the first round
of bidding, a Turkish company submitted a bid for USD 13 million for
the Chaghcharan project. The bidding was subsequently re-opened but
no bidders were qualified.

3. (SBU) In mid-2007, the Lithuanian-led PRT in Ghor province became
concerned when they learned that the refurbished runway would only
support aircraft up to an operational weight of 21 tons. The
operational weight of a C-130 is approximately 71 tons, and the PRT
is heavily dependent on C-130 traffic for life support due to its
remote location and lack of serviceable roads. Currently,
Chaghcharan receives four to six C-130s in a week. If the airstrip
were refurbished only to the level requested by the Afghan
government, the planned thin-crust runway would not support C-130s.
Without C-130 supply flights, the PRT would have to close.

Search for Alternative Sources of Funding
-----------------------------------------
4. (SBU) In its 2007 budget for Afghanistan operations, Lithuania
did not allocate funds to upgrade the airport. They contacted
different entities to try to identify alternative sources of
funding. CSTC-A expressed interest in funding the difference
between the amount that ADB would provide and the amount needed to
make the airport C-130 worthy, since the airport is strategically
important due to its location in the approximate geo-center of
Afghanistan. (Ghor's small population and limited agricultural and
craft production are insufficient to make a strong economic argument
for the airport.) CSTC-A engineers estimated that it would cost
approximately USD 28 million to make the Chaghcharan airport C-130
capable.

Lithuania Makes the Rounds
---------------------------
5. (SBU) Lithuanian representatives raised their concerns with the
governor of Ghor Province, CSTC-A, ISAF HQ, the ADB and the MoTCA.
After several on-again, off-again rounds between the ADB and the
MoTCA, the project stalled because it was dependent on having funds
left over after other, higher-priority airports were refurbished
(such as Badghis, Faryab and Badakhshan). Unfortunately, cost
over-runs have used up all the ADB funding. CENTCOM has directed
CSTC-A to focus on airports in southern Afghanistan and to be more
"careful" about spending U.S. funds, and therefore CSTC-A has
withdrawn its potential support for the Chaghcharan airport.

Effort Continues
----------------
6. (SBU) In March 2008, the MoTCA told the Lithuanians and ISAF that
it would ask the ADB for additional funding for the Chaghcharan
airport. The MoTCA said that if the ADB turned down its request,
MoTCA would go to the Ministry of Finance to identify other funding.
Lithuania has tentatively decided to allocate part of its budget
for Afghanistan to improve the airport.

KABUL 00001050 002 OF 002


WOOD

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