Cablegate: U.S.-Vietnam Drug Cooperation Could Strengthen

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. Hanoi 405 B. Hanoi 816

1. (U) SUMMARY: GVN Defense and Public Security Ministries,
as well as the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), are
"eager" to work on implementation of the new bilateral
counternarcotics letter of agreement. Training and
infrastructural assistance are high GVN priorities; all are
interested in exploring future cooperation with JIATF-WEST.
One possible quick project would be for JIATF-WEST to work
with DEA to supply DEA trainers for an ongoing USG-funded
UNODC project, thus increasing the number of GVN law
enforcement officials exposed to U.S. training, personnel,
and methods. Embassy Law Enforcement Working Group will
meet soon to refine some project proposals. End summary.

2. (U) RADM David Kunkel, Director of the Joint Interagency
Task Force-West (JIATF-W), visited Hanoi March 29 for
meetings with officials of the Ministries of Defense (MOD)
and Public Security (MPS). (The visit was a follow-up to
the visit of Admiral Fargo in February -- ref A.) Admiral
Kunkel, accompanied by his planning staff, operations chief,
and DEA liaison, introduced the GVN officials to the JIATF-W
organization and solicited input regarding potential
counternarcotics assistance projects in Vietnam.


3. (U) Major General Phan Van Duc, Deputy Director General
of the General Division of Police in charge of
counternarcotics at MPS, called Admiral Kunkel's visit
"important" in light of the "ratification" of the new
Counternarcotics Letter of Agreement (LOA) February 3, 2004.
(Note: Ref b reported Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien's
assertion to Ambassador that the agreement was now in
effect, but we have not been formally notified in writing by
either the Office of Government or MFA, despite repeated
requests for formal clarification of the status of the
agreement. We have been told that MPS will soon appoint a
point of contact at the Standing Office for Drug Control,
however. End note.) General Duc noted that the main element
of the LOA was a project to increase the capabilities of
Vietnamese law enforcement, and that MPS looked forward to
using this and other projects to "strengthen and extend"
U.S.-Vietnam cooperation. He conceded that MPS "faced some
large problems due to legal system difficulties and a
different legal framework from the U.S." that prevented MPS
from providing DEA with the level of cooperation it desired.
General Duc expressed a determination to set up a mechanism
for implementing the LOA and determining the best way to
exchange information and deliver training, and then use that
mechanism as a step towards joint operations.

4. (U) Admiral Kunkel described JIATF-W's closely
cooperation with DEA, and highlighted that the LOA offered
the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern on
counternarcotics. He described other JIATF-W projects in
the region, such as the development of a joint intelligence
fusion center in Thailand, and asked General Duc about MPS'
priorities. Duc noted that checkpoint equipment might be
important for Customs, while a joint intelligence fusion
center would consistent with the GVN's priorities in the
counterdrug fight and the effort to build interagency
cooperation. He admitted that the GVN needed a place to
receive, disseminate, and analyze intelligence and

5. (U) SODC representative Colonel Bui Xuan Hieu noted that
Vietnam had a five-year plan (2001-2005) to combat narcotics
and that there were 14 international projects already
included. He said that SODC was "eager" to begin
implementation of the LOA, but stressed that it would be
necessary to synchronize any proposed projects with those
that were already a part of the national plan.


6. (U) Senior Colonel Nguyen Sinh Xo explained to Admiral
Kunkel that the MOD's Border Defense Command was one of four
forces (along with the Coast Guard, MPS, and Customs)
responsible for implementing counterdrug policy in Vietnam.
Previously, Colonel Xo noted, the Border Army was
responsible only for defense but, in light of the GVN's
increasing attention to the drug problem, had now become an
integral part of the national counterdrug task force. New
efforts included information-sharing among agencies, with
Interpol, and with neighboring countries, he added.

7. (U) Admiral Kunkel explained that JIATF-W was concerned
primarily with collection and monitoring of information more
so than actual interdiction of drugs. He emphasized that
drug trafficking was linked to a variety of other
transnational problems, including trafficking in persons,
money laundering, and terrorism, and that JIATF-W was
looking for ways to cooperate with countries in the region
to combat these problems.

8. (U) According to Colonel Xo, the Border Army was now
working with UNODC on a project to provide training for its
forces, adding that more training was always needed and
"welcome." Other projects, involving provision of equipment
that could be used to detect narcotics at border crossings,
would be welcome as well, he predicted. He expressed a hope
that the USG would share intelligence and technology with
the Border Army, either through JIATF-W or through DEA, and
pledged to consult further within the Border Army as well as
to remain in contact with JIATF-W through DAO.


9. (U) UNODC Program Officer Troels Vester highlighted to
Admiral Kunkel that information-sharing between agencies in
Vietnam was a high priority need; currently, the
institutional technical capacity as well as the political
will to share information was lacking. He explained that
while the GVN in theory accepted the necessity of sharing
information to combat drug trafficking, in practice GVN
agencies found such cooperation "extremely difficult."
Vester concurred that something like the intelligence fusion
center in Thailand could fill a need in Vietnam as well, but
noted that it would take a great deal of time to obtain GVN
approval of such a project. In the short term, he
suggested, JIATF-W might consider funding a U.S. expert -
possibly a DEA agent - to provide training under the
existing UNODC counter-drug capacity building project.

10. (U) In a separate meeting with Poloff, Vester clarified
further that using DEA personnel would be an excellent
option for the project because: U.S. trainers are "the
best;" if the U.S. arranged the training, UNODC's small
staff here would be relieved of the burden of logistical
arrangements; project funds could then be spent broadening
and deepening the reach of the project; and DEA involvement
would accelerate implementation of the project. An ideal
contribution, Vester opined, would be to supply two trainers
for nine weeks, with trainings conducted in six different
provinces, plus one each in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in
early 2005. In addition, Vester said that the project would
benefit from an official USG consultant to create training
materials on information-sharing and interdiction units for
use with the trainees, and that temporary position would
need to complete its duties by late 2004. He estimated the
cost for the trainers would be in the range of USD 100,000,
but noted that the cost savings to UNODC would be
approximately USD 130,000; without the contribution of
trainers, UNODC would have to hire private consultants for
considerably more money.

11. (U) Vester added that he would raise the issue with the
Project Steering Committee, which is made up of
representatives from various GVN agencies, to obtain
approval before making a formal request. The next
opportunity to raise it would be April 8, he said. As the
project manager, however, he claimed to be "excited" about
the prospect, which, if successful, would allow the project
to do increased follow-up work, expand training to more than
the interdiction teams, support the GVN in providing
necessary follow-on training, and improve the capacity of
the surveillance department of the Border Army, thus
enhancing border control effectiveness.

12. (U) Comment: RADM Kunkel's visit clearly delivered the
message that the U.S. military is committed to assisting
Vietnam in battling its drug problem. The Border Army
seemed very interested in the opportunity to work with the
U.S. military, as did MPS, and both highlighted the LOA as
the mechanism for arranging and implementing assistance
projects. Embassy will continue efforts quickly to clarify
the exact status of the LOA and to begin further
coordination and consultations. With training and equipment
as top counternarcotics assistance needs for the GVN,
Embassy's Law Enforcement Working Group will meet to discuss
possible concrete proposals for FY05 and beyond, in line
with MPP strategic goals, to forward to JIATF-W for

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