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The Pakistani manufacturer of a key ingredient in improvised explosive devices has agreed to cut production, limit distribution and start a buy-back program to reduce the flow of the material into Afghanistan, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., announced Wednesday.
Casey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's panel on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, said the Fatima Group, owners of factories that produce a fertilizer called calcium ammonium nitrate, have "voluntarily halted production" in the three Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan and are instituting a buy-back program for the substance in those provinces.
Casey has been pressing the Pakistani government to stop the smuggling of the fertilizer and control distribution, but he also reached out directly to the factory owners.
"These are very positive developments which should diminish the amount of this fertilizer available for diversion and smuggling," Casey said.
The company also announced it was reformulating the fertilizer, preparing a "new version … that has significantly diminished explosive properties," Casey said, noting they have agreed to joint testing and evaluation with U.S. officials on the new compound.
"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," Casey said. "The terrible effect of these weapons is evident. It is imperative that we do what is necessary to protect our troops."