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Cablegate: Possible Milair Support for Afghan Hajj

VZCZCXRO3792
OO RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #5547/01 3241123
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201123Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4176
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY 0102
RHMCSUU/FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 005547

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, EB/OTP, EB/TRA/AN
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A
COMMERCE FOR ITA/SHAMROCK
FAA FOR JHANCOCK AND RSMITH
RIYADH FOR ECON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR PGOV ECON AF
SUBJECT: POSSIBLE MILAIR SUPPORT FOR AFGHAN HAJJ


This message is sensitive but unclassified--not for Internet
distribution.

REF: KABUL 5279

--------------------------
Summary and Action Request
--------------------------

1. (SBU) Afghanistan was scheduled to begin its Hajj operation on
November 22. Failure on the part of the Afghan state airline,
Ariana, to source reliable aircraft, get the necessary Saudi
approvals, and get schedule slots for arriving and departing Jeddah
has thrown the planning badly off track. The last several days have
produced good progress, but the possibility remains that the airlift
operation will be seriously delayed or impaired. Given the extreme
political sensitivity of the Hajj in Afghanistan, and the weak
position of the Karzai government, the GoA can be expected to ask
the U.S. for help in moving people to Jeddah if Ariana fails.
Embassy requests that Department demarche NATO capitals and approach
the Pentagon to plan for this contingency; see paragraph 6. END
SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST.

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2. (SBU) With the Hajj airlift operation two days away, the GoA and
Afghan air carriers are still trying to solidify their plans for
moving some 24,000 Hajjis from four Afghan cities to Jeddah.
President Karzai is increasingly nervous about Hajj planning
shortfalls, and he believes that a failure could pose a serious
challenge to his government's stability. He has asked the Embassy
and NATO for support in the airlift operation, by military airlift
if necessary. Karzai has offered to pay for any such assistance;
the problem is not a lack of money but the inability of Ariana, the
state-owned airline, to lease aircraft that the Saudi General Civil
Aviation Authority finds safe enough to approve.

3. (SBU) Over the past several weeks, Embassy has enlisted help from
AmEmbassy Riyadh and AmConsulate Jeddah to urge the SAG to act on
approving safe aircraft from the two Afghan carriers and to assign
landing and takeoff slots as quickly as possible (reftel). The
private Afghan airline, Kamair, has received certification for five
aircraft (all smaller planes: MD-80 series, DC-9, B-737), with a
possibility for a sixth. This gives Kamair enough capacity to serve
its three markets: Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e-Sharif. AmConsulate
Jeddah has informed us that slots for Kamair are likely to be
assigned within a day or two.

4. (SBU) The main problem with approvals has been Ariana's inability
to hire aircraft from reputable charter operators; it has submitted
several aircraft from banned countries, which the Saudis have
rejected. Over the past several days, with help from the Saudi
civil air authority, Ariana has found two Boeing 747s to charter.
This is enough to transport the Hajjis from Kabul to Jeddah, which
actually requires only one B-747. The Saudis have certified one 747
and are in the process of considering the second approval. Once
approved, the SAG will still need to provide landing slots for the
aircraft.

5. (U) To try to fill the gap created by Ariana's inability to find
suitable aircraft, we have requested that USDOC search for U.S.
carriers that might be interested in chartering aircraft for the
Afghan Hajj, in case state carrier Ariana runs out of options.
Given the short response time and the risks involved in serving the
Afghan market, the chances of an American private carrier to assist
the airlift look slim.

--------------------------
COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST
--------------------------

6. (SBU) While the situation has taken a turn for the better since
last week, there is still a distinct possibility that Afghanistan
will not end up with enough approved aircraft or slots to move all
the Hajjis. If this occurs, the GoA will surely ask us for help.
Karzai has already asked the Ambassador for U.S. airlift support,
military or civilian, in case all else fails. We understand from
ISAF here that he has made a similar request of NATO. Embassy
believes that Karzai is not exaggerating the threat of a significant

KABUL 00005547 002 OF 002


Hajj operation failure. We therefore request that Department
demarche NATO capitals and approach the Pentagon to begin planning
airlift support in case of such a contingency.

NEUMANN

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