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Cablegate: Ay Qanoom: Is the Afghan-Tajik Border Crossing Point

VZCZCXRO9722
RR RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1339 1550611
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030611Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4209
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU 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 KABUL 001339

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ETRD EFIN PREL AF TI
SUBJECT: AY QANOOM: IS THE AFGHAN-TAJIK BORDER CROSSING POINT
NECESSARY?

1. (SBU) Summary: Ay Qanoom is one of five official border crossings
between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The Northern Alliance
established a ferry service there in 2001 to import supplies to
fight the Taliban; however, the rationale for its existence has
since disappeared, especially given the opening of the new
Afghan-Tajik bridge at Sher Khan Bandar. The unreliable and limited
capacity ferry currently exports 125 tons of Pakistani cement a day
and imports next to nothing. A more efficient use of the Afghan
Customs and Border Police personnel would be closure of the port and
re-allocation to more utilized facilities.

2. (U) The Ay Qanoom border crossing is in Dascht-e Qala district of
Takhar province in northeast Afghanistan, approximately 70 km from
the provincial capital on unpaved road. The ferry and
border-crossing point opened in 2001 to supply the Northern
Alliance. With the fall of the Taliban, and the access to more
convenient transportation routes, trade volume fell dramatically.
Pakistani cement is currently the only exported product: 10-12
trucks deliver approximately 125 tons per day to the ferry. Nothing
is currently imported. The Afghan privately-run ferry was out of
commission for three months due to mechanical problems and only
re-opened with reduced capacity in April 2008. The Tajik ferry
stopped running several years ago. Passengers and private vehicles
may use the ferry; however, the traffic is minimal to non-existent.

3. (U) On the Tajik side, the crossing is called Kokul, and is
served by the Kokul Border Guard and Customs Service points near the
town of Parkhar in the Hamodoni Border District. The road network
servicing the crossing is quite poor. Embassy Dushanbe's Office of
Defense Cooperation intends to renovate the Kokul Border Guard
garrison, but not the crossing site. Despite the infrastructure
challenges of the site, the Tajiks continue to look for solutions to
increase use of the port, including an impractical proposal to move
the temporary bridge and the passenger ferry from Sher Khan Bandar
to Ay Qanoom. The Tajik interest in enhanced port operations is
greater than the Afghan interest, given that they receive imports
through the crossing.

4. (SBU) The Takhar Customs Office has tasked the Afghan Customs
Director at the port to increase duty income. The Afghan Customs
Director and the Afghan Border Police Commissioner believe that an
improved road network, a bridge and new facilities would result in
greater trade, although it is unclear whether demand exists. There
was no request for USG assistance with these priorities; however,
CSTC-A has a project on the FY2010 Supplemental list to build a
border police facility at Ay Qanoom. This project will construct
administrative, billeting, dining and working dog facilities for the
border police to support operations at the actual border crossing
point.

5. (SBU) The Afghan Customs Director was unable to explain why
traders would use the Ay Qanoom route as opposed to the new
Afghan-Tajik bridge in Sher Khan Bandar. He speculated that it
might be easier to distribute the cement in the remote areas of
Tajikistan from Ay Qanoom. However, to reach Ay Qanoom from Kunduz,
the Pakistani cement must travel five hours on unpaved, ungraveled
roads as compared with the one-hour transit time from Kunduz to Sher
Khan Bandar. The actual amount of exported cement is insignificant
when compared to the traffic at Sher Khan Bandar (less than 3% of
total vehicle volume).

6. (SBU) The Ay Qanoom border crossing has minimal trade volume and
a terrible road network. The Afghan customs and border police are
far from external oversight, especially since the Afghan Border
Brigade headquarters transferred from Takhar's provincial capital,
Taloqan, to Mazar-e Sharif in Balkh province. It may be worthwhile
for the Afghan government to close Ay Qanoom and deploy its border
police and customs personnel to other border crossings or posts
along the border.

7. (U) This report has been coordinated with Embassy Dushanbe.

WOOD

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