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Cablegate: Bmtf/Dhs Meeting with Finance Minister Zakhilwal

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PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #0126/01 0160500
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160500Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4735
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 000126

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EFIN EAID ECON PREL AF
SUBJECT: BMTF/DHS meeting with Finance Minister Zakhilwal

1. (SBU) Summary: In a December 20, 2009 meeting, Border Management
Task Force Director Ortiz met with Finance Minister Zakhilwal and
Deputy Minister Sabit to provide an overview of the current mission
set and incoming DHS elements and to discuss the Minister's vision
to take the Customs Department to the next level. Minister
Zakhilwal advised that Minister of Interior Atmar is a close friend,
which would lead to progress on border issues. Reiterating his
support for current BMTF projects, Zakhilwal related his
appreciation for the Ambassador's support to the Finance Ministry
and Afghan Customs Department through the BMTF program and welcomed
the addition of incoming DHS personnel as partners in customs reform
and enforcement efforts. End Summary.

-----------------------------
BACKGROUND ON CUSTOMS ACADEMY
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) Relating that the Grand Opening of the Customs Academy
would be on January 19, BMTF Director advised that the academy will
continue training similar to the December 6 Bulk Cash Smuggling
(BCS) seminar. Minister Zakhilwal was pleased that the Academy
would open in January and encouraged establishment of a permanent
facility. BMTF Director responded that the intent was to expand the
Afghan National Customs Academy (ANCA) to include specialty training
similar to the BCS seminar and leadership schools for his officers.
He expressed appreciation for the international flavor of the ANCA
Cadre and looked forward to the Opening Ceremony.

---------
MENTORING
---------

3. (SBU) BMTF Director advised Minister Zakhilwal that the mentoring
program would be expanded to include the Kabul HQ, Airport,
additional Border Crossing Points, and Inland Customs Depots.
Zakhilwal responded that he believed the Customs mentors provided
guidance and direction his agencies needed and welcomed the
oversight. The Minister asked that mentoring also include the
Kandahar Airport and other sites outside of Torkham and Islam Qalah.
BMTF has a projected force lay-down based upon priorities and will
be routing this document through the front office for validation.

---------
EQUIPMENT
---------

4. (SBU) Upon hearing that BMTF/DHS will be delivering equipment and
field training via the Customs and Border Protection Officers
assigned to the DHS office and will facilitate dedicated EXBS
equipment to the field, the Minister asked that his officers be
provided the tools and resources not only to conduct inspections but
also to improve the flow of commercial traffic.

---------------
INFRASTRUCTURE
---------------

5. (SBU) BMTF Director advised the Minister of his intent to seek
additional funding for Zaranj and Andkhoi border points based upon
Zakhilwal's September 30, 2009 letter to Ambassador Eikenberry and
the Ambassador's response. He expressed appreciation for the
Weesh/Chaman border project, adding that he understood land
acquisition remained an issue and volunteering that he would
intervene with Minister of Agriculture Rahimi and President Karzai
to ensure the project stayed on track. BMTF Director said he has
been coordinating with the Director General Customs Bismellah
Kammawie, hoped to have the land finalized within four weeks, and
planned to implement a new process during the Weesh/Chaman project
to include the establishment of a Project Delivery Team (PDT) to
design and construct the Border Control Point. The PDT will be
comprised of Afghan Customs and Border Police Managers and
international partners supporting the project. Ownership, efficient
design, and a serviceable facility are the delivery goals of the PDT
process, the BMTF Director explained. The Minister expressed
appreciation for our plan.

------------------
STRATEGIC GUIDANCE
------------------

6. (SBU) Minister Zakhilwal reported that he has been designated
lead GIRoA representative at the January 28 London Conference,
adding that he wanted to include border issues and Customs
Department reform in the preparatory papers. He maintained that
this agency had the most potential and met the criteria on the
reform agenda. The Minister insisted that while the customs
department is plagued by corruption, it could be reformed with
international support. Zakhilwal specifically stated that he would
like USG assistance in the customs area the months between the
London and Kabul Conferences and expressed hope that we would help
develop benchmarks and requirements based upon USG knowledge of
Customs processes. Included in the discussion was the upcoming plan

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to implement the World Bank/BMTF Process Mapping initiative, which
he considered an excellent starting point to help anti-corruption
efforts.

----------
CORRUPTION
----------

7. (SBU) The Minister acknowledged that corruption was a huge
problem in several areas within the Customs Department. He stressed
that transparency was his goal and U.S. ability to assist him
through the Internal Audit process would improve his efforts to
clean up the Department. BMTF Director responded that integration
of the Mobile Verification Teams partnered with the MoI Mobile
Enforcement Teams could act as force multipliers. BMTF recommended
that DHS/ICE provide support and mentoring for his Office of
Internal Audit, as similar initiatives exist with DHS in which ICE
has the lead. Minister Zakhilwal welcomed the assistance and urged
U.S. mentors to stress "good behavior competencies" when dealing
with his officers.

-------------
MoF/ACD GOALS
-------------

8. (SBU) Minister Zakhilwal stated that while Customs Revenue has
increased significantly over the last fiscal year, some 35 percent
of potential customs revenue was being lost through abuses of the
Military Technical Agreement. Stressing that numerous embassies and
NGOs were shipping non-exempt goods under the MTA umbrella, he
sought BMTF assistance in improving the process. BMTF advised that
it was looking at streamlining the process and developing a modern
solution to include the Ministry of Commerce facility at Torkham and
revamping and training NGOs on filing paperwork for exempt goods.
The Minister related the alleged FedEx Corruption case, in which
several employees have been accused of smuggling illicit cargo, and
similar issues concerning fuel originally destined for ISAF. BMTF
Director advised the Minister that discussions and plans to address
these issues were underway at the highest levels of the Embassy and
ISAF.

------
AF/PAK
------

9. (SBU) Relating that trade across all of Afghanistan's borders is
an important issue, the Minister welcomed discussions with Pakistan
on border issues. Commenting that existing facilities were not
equipped to handle current volumes of trade, he also welcomed
BMTF/DHS assistance to facilitate it. He wanted his officers to be
more than "revenue collectors," expecting them to be the "deliverers
of services" and "brokers of trade." His message was that the
commercial community should look favorably upon the Afghan Customs
Department as public servants.

----------------------------
Interior/Finance Ministries
----------------------------

10. (SBU) BMTF Director expressed interest in seeing the Interior
and Finance ministries become more aligned in their enforcement and
security efforts along the border. The Minister was advised of the
Afghan BCP's dual purpose of commerce and security and the continued
coordination as designated in the Memoranda of Understanding signed
by both ministries on July 14, 2009 would bring consistency in
operations and decrease duplication of effort. Recommendations to
begin joint training and cross designation between the Ministries
were discussed, with the Minister commenting that this was the
correct course of action. Lamenting his inability to discipline
officers assigned to other ministries working in the Customs
environment, the Minister expressed the view that the Finance
Ministry should be the lead at all BCPs.

11. (SBU) BMTF Director encouraged the Minister to support a meeting
of Afghan ministers to ban/regulate ammonium nitrate and pre-cursor
chemicals used to make IEDs. Minister Zakhilwal said he understood
the importance of the ISAF-Afghan Counter IED Initiative and offered
his ministry's full support to combat this scourge. BMTF Director
advised that along with current USG assets, the incoming DHS group
would be instrumental in this effort. Zakhilwal welcomed the
assistance and stated he would work with both the Interior and
Defense ministries to regulate or ban the substances.

EIKENBERRY

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