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Cablegate: How Not to Lose the North

VZCZCXRO7602
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHBUL #1032/01 0871146
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281146Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7143
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3561
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3885
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 001032

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SA/FO, SCA/A, S/CT, S/CR, SCA/PAB, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR, CG CJTF-82 POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/27/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PHUM PINR SNAR AF
SUBJECT: HOW NOT TO LOSE THE NORTH

REF: A. KABUL 5679 06
B. KABUL 940 07
C. KABUL 979 07

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RONALD E. NEUMANN FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) & (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Having been caught off guard by the
Taliban's opportunistic efforts in the South, post stepped
back to look at the situation in the North to assess how best
to avoid destabilizing violence and power vacuums in the
region. The current stability in northern Afghanistan can be
credited less to the effectiveness of local or national
government than to the control wielded by local power brokers
and the lack of a focused insurgency like the Taliban in the
south. Corruption, drug trafficking, and criminality plague
the north. Improving good governance and establishing
legitimate stability require credible government structures,
an operational justice system, and an economy strong enough
to survive the removal of drug traffickers and corrupt
officials. Focusing on one issue to the exclusion of others
would leave critical gaps in our overall strategy to ensure
lasting security. Implementation challenges are substantial.
The GOA's political must play a vital role. ISAF could have
a key role to play, but NATO as an organization has not shown
the political will even to seriously discuss the issues. END
SUMMARY.

---------------------------------
Northern Stability Is Superficial
---------------------------------
2. (C) Despite the pressures of the insurgency in the South,
we cannot wholly divert resources or attention from the North
on the mistaken assumption that all is well there. The
superficial stability that exists is fragile and masks
considerable public disenchantment with the central
government. Badakhshan's remote location helps protect the
narco-economy that dominates the political and economic
landscape. Takhar is dealing with organized crime and the
control that local power brokers have over the province.
Baghlan is plagued with local criminality based largely on
tribal clashes and banditry. Balkh is mired in a corrupt
provincial government structure with a dominant governor
whose personal interests outweigh his sense of public
service. Kunduz is struggling to deal with a large influx of
Pashtun refugees. Jowzjan is faced with a power struggle
between Tajik, Uzbek, and Pashtun leaders who are vying for
control. In each case, the veneer of stability rests on
factors that represent an obstacle to responsive governance,
which feeds discontent.

--------------------------
Corruption Must Be Reduced
--------------------------
3. (C) Unless provincial governments and federal
authorities ensure that arrested criminals are prosecuted and
imprisoned, locals have no reason to believe that the current
economy and governance system, which has been dominated for
so long by corrupt and nepotistic leaders, can function
differently. If governmental corruption could be reduced to
a minimum, locals would be more willing to support efforts by
provincial government to establish itself as the legitimate
guarantor of security. Currently, removing corrupt officials
from their positions often results in nothing more than their
transfer to another post within the provincial or district
government. The selection of the new district police chiefs
as part of the phase III rank reform will help address this
issue, but more remains to be done.

4. (SBU) Pay reform is also a critical part of this
equation. All Northern provinces are scheduled to undergo a
pay reform over the next few months which will allow
policemen to be paid directly from a local officially
recognized bank. Ensuring that provincial departments receive
their budget money will also help instill hope in the local
population that change is coming to the North, and not all of
the profit is going to the drug traffickers and corrupt

KABUL 00001032 002 OF 003


officials.

------------------------------------
Stronger Economy Will Help Stability
------------------------------------
5. (C) There is a strong entrepreneurial tradition in many
parts of the North, and establishing legitimate, transparent
business processes such as customs and tax collection,
business registration, legally addressing complaints, hiring
on merit, and contracting via open competition is vital to
strengthening the economy, especially in Mazar e Sharif.
Strengthening the Mazar economy would sideline Governor
Atta's corrupt government by reducing the populace's
dependency on the government for survival. To this end, the
USG is working on strengthening the private sector by
facilitating a reform of the tax and customs processes.
Anti-corruption efforts, such as prosecuting officials linked
to Atta or going after Atta himself, should be pursued but in
a balanced way so that such actions do not become
destabilizing.

------------------------------------------
Removing Narco-Traffickers Key to Security
------------------------------------------
6. (C) In contrast to Balkh province, the economies of
Baghlan, Takhar, and especially Badakhshan provinces are much
more dependent on narco-trafficking and smuggling of goods
and weapons. Efforts to strengthen the local economy in
these provinces would have little effect on wresting control
of the province from local power brokers in the short-term.
Without action taken to marginalize the entrenched
criminally-connected power centers in Badakhshan, we stand a
fair chance of winning the war on terror in the north by
preventing mass Taliban/other opposing force infiltration,
only to lose the province to narco-threats.

7. (C) Several actions could be taken to marginalize the
entrenched narco-barons power centers. The Disbandment of
Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) process can be seriously
strengthened, with a push to collect weapons other than the
old, often unusable arms that have been collected in the
past. To accomplish this, more resources need to be invested
into building local police capacity and strengthening the
judicial institutions to prosecute successfully. Major
arrests of the most prominent drug traffickers would send a
strong signal that the GOA is committed to installing rule of
law in the North. We will continue strongly to encourage
Karzai to appoint clean individuals to official positions
in the provinces. A more rigorous vetting procedure would
help eliminate individuals with narco-connections from being
slotted into government positions. A message needs to be
sent to the criminal elements currently in control that they
will no longer be able to operate freely; efforts are being
made to bring rule of law to the north.

-------------------------------
National Police Need Shoring Up
-------------------------------
8. (C) The Ministry of the Interior is increasing the pace
of recruitment and training to deploy more Afghan National
Army (ANA) soldiers to the North. However, the numbers of
Afghan National Police (ANP) being deployed to the North are
growing more slowly because the focus is currently on the
south. Regional Command North has said that an additional
200 police advisors are needed to provide adequate mentoring
and training of the 11,000 ANP that work in the north.
Providing more advisors for the police would help create the
capacity within the local police that is needed to minimize
the possibility of creating a power vacuum that other
criminal elements could take advantage of and establish
themselves as the new local power brokers.

9. (SBU) Rank reform, particularly the replacement of
district police chiefs, will improve the quality of police
leadership. Pay reform should provide incentives to improve
recruitment and retention. The creation of a civil order

KABUL 00001032 003 OF 003


police unit will allow for a quick reaction force to respond
to civil disturbances. However, these are all medium-term
solutions that require time and resources to implement. They
depend on the GOA's political will to see them through.

-------
COMMENT
-------
10. (C) Dislodging the status quo of corrupt officials and
narco-barons without creating the kind of instability which
has been fertile ground for the insurgency in the South will
take careful planning, time, and determination. It is vital
that these problems be tackled concurrently. Arresting
corrupt officials should be accompanied by developing a
functioning justice system. Removing drug traffickers from
power should be followed with providing employment
opportunities for poppy farmers who find themselves out of a
job. Focusing on one issue to the exclusion of others would
leave critical gaps in our overall strategy to ensure lasting
security in the North.

11. (C) Implementation difficulties associated with
addressing these issues are substantial. Significantly
reducing corruption, strengthening the local economy,
removing narco-traffickers, and shoring up the National
Police require time and resources. GOA political will and
its ability to back it up are also key factors. ISAF thus
far has not shown the will to confront criminality with force
in the north. It does not have a mandate to do so. It will
need to engage more on these issues if we want to ensure
lasting stability in the north, particularly if we are not to
be content with just waiting for years for GOA institutions
to develop. But for ISAF to do more, its guidance would have
to change and that is a discussion that needs to occur in
capitals and Brussels.

12. (C) Removing a few corrupt senior officials, warlords,
or drug-traffickers will be viewed as nothing more than
window dressing by locals. Real and lasting change will
require substantial investments of time, energy, and capital.
The GOA needs to demonstrate more political will to engage
substantially on these challenges in the North.
Nevertheless, attention needs to be paid to the varied
challenges presented in the North. While the Taliban may not
be poised at the doorstep of the northern provinces, locals
are looking for alternatives. Now is the time to establish
good governance and rule of law before northerners find
another, less desirable way to deal with their current
circumstances. END COMMENT.
NEUMANN

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