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Cablegate: Kunar: Proper Management of Timber Sales Needed To

VZCZCXRO5587
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #3479/01 3050704
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 010704Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2676
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003479

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS USAID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ETRD PREL PK AF
SUBJECT: KUNAR: PROPER MANAGEMENT OF TIMBER SALES NEEDED TO
AVERT CONFLICT

REF: KABUL 2438

1. (SBU) Summary: The lifting of the timber sales ban in the
eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan offers a
long-awaited opportunity to reduce smuggling that funds
insurgent activities and criminal networks. Such gains could
be undermined, however, if mismanagement of timber sales
leads to conflict between state and non-state actors.
Likewise, the sales process may fuel a rush to cut remaining
stands, further damaging already degraded forests and
watersheds and depriving Kunar and Nuristan of potential
jobs. Until a Forest Law is passed and forest and watershed
management is staffed and resourced, illicit timber
harvesting will continue, to the detriment of security and
sustainability. PRT Kunar will attempt to monitor illicit
sales activity and will consult with Kunar Governor Wahidi on
how best to manage future sales. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Ministry of Finance (MoF) Chief of Staff Mohammad
Shah Safi informed Embassy Kabul on October 5 that MoF will
allow sale of illicitly-cut timber stockpiles impounded and
registered in Kunar and Nuristan provincial timber yards.
This follows a September 28 Cabinet decision to lift the sale
ban and designate the MoF as the lead to determine procedures
for the sale. The September 28 Cabinet decision also created
a commission that includes the Ministries of Agriculture,
Interior, and Environmental Protection, as well as Finance,
to a draft plan within a month for the protection of
remaining forests. Additionally, the Forest Law, in draft
since 2007, was recently submitted to Parliament; its
adoption and implementation should provide a long-term
framework for a sustainable community-based forest management
process, an important step toward conserving and developing
these resources.

3. (SBU) Kunar,s Line Director for Finance, Abdul Ghafoor,
explained that the sale process will include the creation of
an MoF-run commission to oversee the sales in Kunar. Ghafoor
noted that the commission will be comprised of Afghan
government officials from Kabul, but will operate out of
Kunar at the start of the process. Note: Ghafoor, along with
Kunar Governor Wahidi, had submitted a timber sale proposal
to MoF in late August, following on a timber shura hosted by
Wahidi in Kunar on July 28 (reftel). The governor's plan
appears to have formed a basis for the initial MoF proposal.
Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Kunar has not received
any indications that the Cabinet decision has been publicly
announced. End Note.

4. (SBU) The MoF plan does not include Kunar Governor
Wahidi,s proposed timber sale cap, however. A cap would
limit the sale to a specified amount of timber stockpiles and
help deter illegal logging efforts to add to existing
stockpiles. Current estimates of the timber stockpiles in
Kunar and Nuristan range from 5 to 8 million cubic board
feet.

5. (SBU) Monitoring the stockpiles to ensure that additional
logs are not added will be a significant challenge. MoF,s
Mohammad Shah Safi indicated that the Afghan National Police
(ANP) will likely lead any monitoring efforts and noted that
&new cut wood will look different from the stored wood, so
the police will be able to stop it.8 However, Kunar Deputy
Chief of Police Brigadier General Saboor indicated on October
7 that the ANP did not expect to increase its checkpoints to
monitor illegal logging activity or activities at Asadabad,s
timber yard. In Kunar, the ANP are widely held to be key
facilitators of illegal smuggling in the province.

6. (SBU) Since the ban was lifted on October 5, the Kunar
Chamber of Commerce reports that there has been no
out-of-the-ordinary sales activity at the Asadabad timber
yard. The yard generally has limited legal sales and a
regular stream of illegal sales under cover of darkness.
During the ban, Kunaris could buy wood legally on a
case-by-case basis, approved by the Kunar governor, as long
as any finished products were only sold in Kunar. PRT Kunar
is mobilizing resources to begin an informal night time watch
on the timber yards within the Asadabad area to monitor any
infusions of new timber.

7. (SBU) Comment: Today Kunar and Nuristan retain only 35-40
percent of their native forest cover. The last accurate
assessment in Kunar dates from the 1970s, and a professional
assessment of the remaining resources (as well as of the
timber stockpiles) is necessary for resource management
planning. Without a timber sales cap and adequate

KABUL 00003479 002 OF 002


monitoring, we anticipate additional illicit cutting to take
advantage of the stockpile sales, along with possible
conflict between state and non-state actors vying to take
advantage of this opportunity to "launder" their timber. At
a minimum, well-publicized regular physical inventory
reconciliations of the timber yards might help deter local
officials and others from adding to the stockpiles. The PRT
will meet with Governor Wahidi to hear his assessment of how
to manage this dwindling resource. Beyond environmental
concerns, we will also be closely watching signs of illicit
timber money finding its way to insurgents. Since the timber
trade was originally banned in part because of the corruption
it was spawning (reportedly reaching to the level of a
previous governor), we will remain alert to the possible
negative impact of the new policy on good governance in Kunar.

8. (U) This message was drafted jointly by PRT Kunar and
Embassy Kabul.
EIKENBERRY

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