Afghan government bans explosive fertilizer

Published 26 January 2010

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has banned ammonium nitrate fertilizers in Afghanistan in order to curtail the Taliban’s ability to produce explosive devices

Damage caused by fertilizer-based bomb in Oklahoma City, 1995 // Source:

The Afghanistan government has banned the import, possession, or use of the fertilizer ammonium nitrate in the country. The Afghani government took the action last Friday in order to prevent the Taliban insurgency from creating improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Ammonium nitrate, when combined with diesel fuel, is a powerful explosive. In 1947, for example, the port of Texas City, Texas was destroyed when 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded on a vessel, killing 581 people. Forty-eight years later, Timothy McVeigh packed a truck with ammonium nitrate and exploded it outside a federal building in Oklahoma City, in what was the largest act of terrorism in the United States until the World Trade Center attack..

The Associated Press reports that NATO troops have confiscated tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in Afghanistan in recent months. Ninety percent of the homemade bombs in Afghanistan are made with an ammonium nitrate base. These bombs are also the greatest threat to and killer of NATO troops in Afghanistan.(AP world)

Karzai’s move aims to cut supplies to the Taliban operating in Southern Afghanistan. He said that farmers have one month to surrender or disperse the explosive fertilizer. Many other countries have either banned or reduced the amount of ammonium nitrate individuals are allowed to hold. After the Oklahoma City bombing, the United States began to restrict the quantities of the fertilizer individuals or companies are allowed to store’ possession,

The Taliban growing reliance on ammonium nitrate raises the question of whether, in recent months, Allied forces have been able to disrupt Taliban logistical operations, making it difficult or impossible for the Taliban to use military-grade materials as they had in the early stages of the insurgency.