US military suspends contract ban on Kam Air
KABUL (PAN): The US military has lifted a ban on contracts with an Afghan airline suspected of drug smuggling, pending to an investigation into the allegations by the Afghan government, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said on Tuesday.
The US placed Kam Air, one of the country's largest airlines, on the list of banned companies on Jan. 18 after a US military investigation found evidence that opium was being smuggled out of the country on Kam Air flights.
The ban was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, after the decision to blacklist the carrier sparked anger throughout the Afghan government.
In a statement released late Monday, the US military said it had temporarily removed Kam Air from its blacklist.
On Tuesday, ISAF said in a statement the Afghan government had agreed to conducting a full investigation following Sunday's talks between senior Afghan officials and US forces at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Based on this discussion, US central command would suspend the Section 841 designation and communicate this normalized status to all affected US government agencies. “USFOR-A will support the Afghan government's investigation by providing evidence and documents as required,” the ISAF statement said.
On completion of the Afghan government's investigation, the US force and Afghan representatives would reconvene to mutually determine the next steps, it said. The statement said the Afghan government and the US forces remained mutually committed to transparency and combating corruption.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the move as a right decision, saying it would return business relations to normal with Kam Air.
“The Afghan government is committed to a full investigation into the whole matter, including a thorough examination of evidence provided by the US military,” the ministry said in a statement.
The airline, which operates four weekly flights between Kabul and Dushanbe, has rejected the allegation as baseless. Tajikistan’s National Security Committee and Foreign Ministry had declined to comment on the issue.
Kam Air president and founder Zmarai Kamgar has said he was ready to defend his firm against the allegations that he said had dealt a serious blow to the airline's reputation.
The Afghan government has asked the US embassy in Kabul to provide evidence in this regard, and threatened to sue the US military if they failed to produce concrete proofs.
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