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Cablegate: Afghans and Tajiks Agree to Double Opening Hours of Bridge

VZCZCXRO4166
RR RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #4142 3520724
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180724Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1940
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4317
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS KABUL 004142

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR HARRIMAN
OSD FOR KIMMITT
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76 POLAD

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS


E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ETRD AF
SUBJECT: Afghans and Tajiks agree to Double Opening Hours of Bridge
as Afghan Customs revenue also doubles

1. (U) Summary: At a USG hosted meeting on December 17, Afghan and
Tajik officials discussed current operations of, and ways forward
for, the US-built and financed Afghan-Tajik bridge. Participants
agreed to extend opening hours, consider pedestrian traffic and
identify a common frequency for radio communications. The USG
representatives ensured that both governments were informed about
the timeline for the upcoming handover of the soon-to-be-completed
border crossing points (Jan/Feb 2008) and associated personnel and
training requirements. Since the bridge's opening, Afghan monthly
customs revenue has increased from $80,000 to $150,000. Facilitated
by US leadership, the two parties are productively engaging one
another to maximize their utilization from the bridge. End
Summary.

2. (U) Afghan and Tajik local and regional border police and
customs officials, along with Afghan representatives from the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and the intelligence service
met on Dec 17, 2007 at the US Army Corps of Engineers office on the
Tajik side of the Afghan-Tajik Bridge. Embassy Kabul's PRT Officer
in Kunduz, coordinating with Embassy Dushanbe, organized and chaired
the meeting.

Opening Hours Doubled - Pedestrian Traffic Considered

3. (SBU) The Afghans and Tajiks agreed to extend the current
operating hours of the bridge from four to eight hours a day for
vehicle traffic beginning immediately after the upcoming Eid
holiday. Although the Afghans would prefer otherwise, the border
will remain closed on Sundays and will not be open to pedestrian
traffic. The Tajiks agreed, however, to raise these two items for
discussion within their respective ministries. A representative
from the Tajik border guard commented that the original bilateral
border agreement needed to be amended to reference the new bridge.


Security - Communications, Barbed Wire and Video Cameras

4. (SBU) While neither Afghans nor Tajiks reported any hostile
activity directed at the bridge, both parties were interested in
improving the perimeter security and their incident response
ability. The Afghan border police will prepare an internal Ministry
of Interior request for barbed wire for perimeter security.
Participants noted their reliance on commercial cellular
communications and agreed to work through their governments to
identify a common frequency for radio communications.

Who's Dorm? Yours or Mine?

5. (U) With the exception of inspection halls equipped with truck
scanners, the Afghan and Tajik border crossing points will be
completed by February 2008. The US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE)
will conduct facility walk-through with future occupants to ensure
that adequate personnel have been identified for staffing and
training purposes. One outstanding Afghan question is whether the
dormitory facility is intended for the Border or Customs Police.
The Afghan representatives will sit separately to consider a
temporary egress from the border crossing point to the Commercial
Customs Facility until the EU-funded connector road is completed in
Aug/Sept 2008.

Comment

6. (SBU) With six weeks of bridge-operating experience under their
belts, Afghans and Tajiks are eager to expand operations, albeit
cautiously and with deferene to their ministries. Afghan monthly
customs revenue has increased from $80,000 to $150,00. Facilitated
by US leadership, the two parties are productively engaging one
another to maximize their utilization from the bridge. With the
departure of a permanent USG ACE presence at the bridge this month,
an international customs or border advisor for either the Afghan or
Tajik side may be needed to ensure that the forward momentum
continues. All told, the bridge has been a success and traffic has
increased. As the head of Afghan customs privately remarked, it is
only a matter of time before the sheep start making their own
journey across the bridge. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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