Cablegate: Establishment of Drug Interdiction Task Force Units

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

REFS: A. 3/10/04 email Gatz/Moeling; B. Hanoi 920

1. (U) This is an action request -- see para 8.

2. (U) SUMMARY. A key element of a UN-led, U.S.-funded
anti-drug project setting up drug interdiction task force
units in six Vietnamese provinces bordering China, Cambodia,
and Laos is underway. The three-year project focuses on
generating interagency agreement to create six "joint
interdiction task force units" and provide training and
equipment for task force officers to strengthen their law
enforcement capacity. This project has high-level support
in Vietnam and will make a direct impact on Vietnam's
overall counterdrug capacity. END SUMMARY.


3. (U) The project, titled "Interdiction and Seizure
Capacity Building with Special Emphasis on ATS and
Precursors," began with a launching ceremony on May 25 in
Hanoi. (United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Resident Representative Dr. Doris Budddenberg and Vietnamese
Vice Minister of Public Security Lieutenant General Le The
Tiem had signed the project document in December 2003.)
According to Colonel Vu Hung Vuong, Director of the
Counternarcotics Department (C-17) of the Ministry of Public
Security (MPS), the UNODC project is to run for three years
with funding of USD 736,800. (Note: so far the U.S. has
provided USD 500,000. End note) The top goals of the
project are to strengthen drug law enforcement capacity by
establishing six interdiction task force units at the
provincial level, then move towards reducing the
availability of illicit drugs in domestic and overseas
markets, Colonel Vuong said. The project sites will be in
"hotspot" border provinces -- Lang Son, Lao Cai, Son La,
Thanh Hoa, Long An, and An Giang, Colonel Vuong confirmed.


4. (U) According to Colonel Vuong, the implementing
agencies include: the MPS' C-17; the Anti-smuggling
Department of the General Department of Customs; and the
Surveillance Department of the Vietnam Border Army. Each
task force unit has ten officers, who started work on June
1, the Colonel said. Out of that number, six will be from
the police, two from Customs, and two from the Border Army.
The police, however, will take the lead in running the
program and will keep these units working after the project
ends, Colonel Vuong promised. Colonel Vuong said separately
that Vietnam and UNODC chose these six provinces because
they are areas where drug trafficking has escalated and
where there is a high flow of ATS trafficked across the


5. (U) Following the establishment of the inter-agency
task force units, there will be training for the units on
advanced professional investigative techniques, gathering
and sharing of intelligence, international cooperation,
reporting measures, and testing methods, confirmed Troels
Vester of UNODC in a June 1 meeting with emboffs. Vehicles
and equipment will also be provided, Colonel Vuong said at
the launching ceremony. In addition to the assistance for
the task force units, UNODC will also provide equipment to
three drug-testing laboratories in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho
Chi Minh City. During the launching ceremony, Colonel Vuong
provided a 15-item checklist for the joint task force units'
first year, including:

-- Employment of a national technical officer and an
administrative assistant for the national project office;
-- Establishment of the project office and the steering
-- Equipment needs assessment;
-- Seminar on the establishment of six task force units,
procedures and policy for the implementing agencies;
-- Building of a mechanism to give instructions by C-17,
Anti-smuggling Department, and the Surveillance Department;
-- Setting up a reporting system for the units;
-- Seminar on procedures/cooperation mechanism between the
units and the drug testing laboratories;
-- Building up contact and coordination between the units
and the drug testing laboratories;
-- Procurement of equipment for the units;
-- Training on the use of equipment;
-- Training and equipment needs assessment for the testing
-- Procurement of equipment for the laboratories;
-- Training on the use of equipment;
-- Setting up an information gathering system for the
units; and,
-- Preparation of training materials.


6. (U) According to UNODC's Vester, the launching ceremony
for the project was followed by a two-day internal seminar
in which the Border Army, the General Department of Customs,
and the Counternarcotics Police hashed out the
jurisdictional and operational issues surrounding the new
task force units. Vester, the only non-GVN participant in
the seminar, called the exchanges "frank and productive" and
said that they resulted in a signed "cooperation plan"
providing for a detailed implementation framework for the
interdiction units to operate. This includes: information
and intelligence sharing; coordination of operations and
designation of leadership; investigation and handling of
specific cases; and conflict resolution.


7. (U) As previewed in ref A, in addition to the USD 500,000
that the USG has already committed to this project, UNODC
Hanoi is anxious for a commitment of the additional USD
236,000 to allow planning for activities beyond March 2005,
when the current funding would run out. Embassy also hopes
to improve the project's quality by taking advantage of
JIATF-WEST's stated intention to support the deployment of
JIATF or DEA trainers to Vietnam in November 2004 and
February 2005 to meet the Interdiction Task Force Units'
training needs (ref B).

8. (U) ACTION REQUEST: Please advise on the status of the
remaining USD 236,000 identified for UNODC Hanoi project

9. (U) Comment: Given Vietnam's proximity to the Golden
Triangle and its long land border and coastline, the
establishment of the task force units promises a more
effective law enforcement effort, especially in border
areas. Currently, there are only about 50 poorly equipped
drug law enforcement officers in the Border Army and Sea
Police forces, who are responsible for the 8,000-kilometer
land border and 1 million square kilometers of territorial
waters. Thus, the task force units represent a major
augmentation of Vietnam's drug enforcement capacity. The
high-level seminar with its tangible results is an
exceptional outcome of a U.S. assistance project, and the
establishment of the joint task forces represents a concrete
accomplishment beyond the usual training and exchange
activities the U.S. has funded in the past. Embassy
strongly supports continued funding of this initiative.

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