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SIGAR urges tighter VIP control to stop cash smuggling through airport

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2021)

Despite efforts by the Afghan government to reduce the flow of cash out of the country’s busiest international airport, significant control weaknesses continue to exist at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported Thursday.

Cash counting machines, which were funded by the US government, are not being used for the purposes intended and the only cash counting machine confirmed to be working is in the arrival entrance, instead of the departure area where strict cash controls are most needed to help prevent cash smuggling, SIGAR reported.

In addition, the machines lack connectivity to the Internet, which in turn prevents Afghan investigative authorities from tracking currency suspected of being laundered.

“The absence of fully functional and strategically positioned cash counting machines, and declaration forms in the VIP section along with the limited screening of VIP passengers – who are most likely to have large amounts of cash – severely limits the Afghan government’s ability to fully implement its anti-money laundering laws at the airport,” John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction stated in the report.

To improve screening procedures at Hamid Karzai International Airport, SIGAR suggested the Afghan government take the following two actions:

1. Fully integrate cash counting machines with functioning Internet capability into the normal customs process both at the non-VIP and VIP terminals to better ensure that all declared and detected currency is counted, and serial numbers captured, for use by FinTRACA and its international partners.
2. Strengthen controls at the VIP terminal by requiring all VIP and VVIP passengers to fill out customs declaration forms, and have airport staff count any cash declared and send serial numbers to FinTRACA.

Sopko stated: “We provided a draft copy of this report to the [US] Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) for comments on December 21, 2020, and the Afghan government for comments on December 22, 2020.

“DHS provided technical comments for incorporation in the report on January 8, 2021, which we
incorporated as appropriate. The Department of State informed SIGAR on January 8, 2021 that it does not have any technical comments.

“As of the publication of this report, the Afghan government did not provide any comment on the report nor on the matters for its consideration,” Sopko stated.

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Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to sign marble export agreement

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(Last Updated On: June 6, 2021)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Haneef Atmar and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov, have discussed Afghanistan exporting marble to Turkmenistan.

In a statement issued by the Afghan foreign ministry, MoFA said the Afghan delegation provided comprehensive information to their Turkmen counterparts on the various natural resources and rare stones available in Afghanistan.

The Afghan delegation said the export of the resources would be significant in strengthening and expanding trade between Kabul and Ashgabat.

Highlighting development taking place and the construction around building new cities in Turkmenistan, the Turkmen delegation discussed their requirement for marble and expressed Turkmenistan’s full readiness to procure marble from Afghanistan.

The two sides agreed to sign an agreement on Afghanistan’s marble export to Turkmenistan.

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Parliament ratifies Iran, Afghanistan rail cooperation agreement

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(Last Updated On: May 31, 2021)

Iran’s Parliament on Monday passed Iran-Afghanistan Rail Cooperation Agreement that allows rail connection between the neighboring countries.

Iran and Afghanistan agreed to make direct connection through railroad to transfer passengers and goods.

According to the agreement, the two sides have agreed to provide rail vehicles and services and implement sanitary supervision in accordance with international rules, while domestic rules are valid where an issue occurs outside of international conventions.

The agreement also states that the two sides must treat passengers and goods from the other side the way they treat their own. This applies to free access to destination points, providing space for cargos in terminals, unloading and uploading of cargos, onboarding and offboarding passengers, and using international railroad services.

Islamic Republic of Iran Railways and Afghanistan Railway Authority have been chosen in the agreement as qualified authorities to supervise implementing the agreement and to solve disagreements.

Iran and Afghanistan linked their railway through Iran’s Khaf and Afghanistan’s Herat.

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Chinese consortium meets with Ghani over $400 million power project

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(Last Updated On: May 30, 2021)

A group of Chinese investors met with President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday to discuss the possibility of establishing a coal-fired power plant in the country.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement the group plans to invest $400 million in the energy-generating project.

The plan is for the coal power plant to generate 300 megawatts of electricity.

“In the meeting, President Ghani articulated potentials of natural resources as well as investment opportunities in the energy sector in Afghanistan,” the statement read.

The statement noted that Ghani has instructed the Afghanistan Investment Facilitation Unit to assess the plan “in coordination with Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat to facilitate investment opportunities for the group and to share the outcome with the Office of the President.”

Energy in Afghanistan is provided by hydropower followed by fossil fuel and solar power.

According to Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), approximately 35% of Afghanistan’s population has access to electricity.

Currently, Afghanistan generates about 600 megawatts (MW) of electricity from several hydroelectric plants as well as using fossil fuel and solar panels.

However, more than 670 MW more is imported from neighboring Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

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