Director of the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), Lt. General Michael Barbero has reported increased cooperation from Fatima fertilizer in Pakistan. Fatima owns a 48% stake in the Midwest Fertilizer Company which had been awarded incentives by the state of Indiana to build a nitrogen production facility in Posey County, Indiana.
Just a few short weeks later, the plan was tabled by Governor Mike Pence as Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) produced in Fatima's plant in Pakistan had been finding its way into the black market and used in Afganistan and other military hotspots in the construction of improvised explosive devices against U.S. troops.
On Friday, Indiana Governor, Mike Pence officially withdrew the state's support of Fatima's plan to build in Indiana, and canceled the $1.8 billion bond issuances. This comes as Fatima has made acceptable progress in Pakistan according to General Barbero, revamping the recipie for CAN for a less volitile end product. But the new CAN formula's explosive potential remains untested. Barbero and other Dept. of Defense officials will oversee testing this June.
Critics of Pence's decision fear that the move will eliminate the progress that Fatima has willingly made so far toward making CAN less explosive. Indiana's support of the project gave the Dept. of Defense a great deal of leverage at the bargaining table, and with the bond funds no longer available, some fear the progress made by Fatima will be lost.
Following a visit to Pakistan earlier this month, General Barbero said: "recently the fertilizer industry, Fatima Group, has made and taken a number of steps, they have pulled Calcium Ammonium Nitrate," from two key provinces. He added: "They think they have come up with a reformulation that is [a] less detonable composition of CAN and they have agreed to joint testing which we are going to do next month. They have joined the international fertilizer association voluntarily which makes them subject to audits of their product security. Overall, recently a lot of progress [has been made] with Pakistan military and from the fertilizer industry."
With Fatima working closely with the Dept. of Defense in Pakistan, and now subject to oversight from the International Fertilizer Association, Pence's decision may have jumped the gun. The suggestion was that, with General Barbero's go-ahead, construction of the plant could go on as planned, but a full endorsement from General Barbero has yet to come.
Governor Pence's full statement follows...
"I did not take this decision lightly. Economic development is important, but the safety and security of our soldiers in harm's way is more important.
"Throughout the past four months, our administration has worked in good faith to evaluate whether our state should be involved in this project. I am aware of Fatima Group's efforts and cooperation with federal defense officials in recent weeks and believe their actions to be sincere.
"While we have been encouraged by promises made by Fatima Group to replace production of their current fertilizer with a more inert and less explosive formula in Pakistan, at this point in time, U.S. officials have not been able to independently confirm this fact and, as such, Indiana will not be moving forward with this project.
"Without assurances from our Defense Department that the materials which have been misused by the enemy in Afghanistan will be permanently removed from production by Fatima Group in Pakistan, I cannot in good conscience tell our soldiers and their families that this deal should move forward."
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation informed Midwest Fertilizer Company of the State's decision in a letter that can be found here.