U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, today released the following statement on recent developments regarding the threat to our troops posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan:
"I have worked since 2009 to highlight the ongoing threat to our troops posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan. I have held two Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearings to focus specifically on the threat posed by a fertilizer called Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN), which is often used as the main explosive charge in IEDs in Afghanistan. Significant amounts of this fertilizer, which is produced at two factories in Pakistan, are diverted from legal use and smuggled across the border to fuel these weapons. I have called for decisive, immediate action by both the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani business community to cut off this smuggling and to safeguard this material.
In recent weeks, I have received commitments from the owners of the Pakistani factories that produce and distribute this fertilizer, the Fatima Group, that they have voluntarily halted distribution of CAN in the Pakistani provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, which border Afghanistan. I also understand that they are instituting a CAN buy-back program in these provinces. These are very positive developments which should diminish the amount of this fertilizer available for diversion and smuggling. Fatima has also announced that it has been working on a new version of CAN that has significantly diminished explosive properties. I appreciate Fatima's continuing cooperation, their initiative in developing this new compound, and their willingness to conduct joint testing and evaluation with U.S. officials.
I plan to closely monitor Fatima's progress in implementing these measures, and continue to call for the Government of Pakistan to combat the networks that supply and manufacture IEDs, recognizing that these weapons also kill and injure many Pakistanis. My focus remains on the safety and well-being of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan. The success of the measures taken by the Fatima Group will be measured by improvements in the environment for American, Coalition and Afghan personnel in Afghanistan. The terrible effect of these weapons is evident and it is imperative that we do what is necessary to protect our troops."