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Cablegate: Prt/Sharana: Paktika Governor On Spring Offensive

VZCZCXRO0945
OO RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1051 0901349
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 311349Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7186
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/COMSOCCENT MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 3902

UNCLAS KABUL 001051

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A, S/CRS, SA/PB, S/CT,
EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER ASEC MARR AF
SUBJECT: PRT/SHARANA: PAKTIKA GOVERNOR ON SPRING OFFENSIVE

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Paktika's Governor Khpalwak has launched
his own political spring offensive designed to preempt a
widely expected Taliban offensive in southeastern
Afghanistan. Starting on March 18, the Governor has been in
near constant motion around the province. The Governor's
agenda included hosting an Islamic New Year's party for
thousands in Sharana, speaking at several government
construction groundbreaking ceremonies, inspecting Taliban
prisoners and captured equipment, and speaking directly to
district tribal Shuras as well as to the national and
international press. Strongly bolstered by new construction
projects from PRT Sharana, Governor Khpalwak has taken to the
road and to the airwaves to get his and the GOA's message out
to the people prior to any major Taliban activity. END
SUMMARY

WHEN THE ROCKS WARM UP THE TALIBAN COME OUT
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Soviet forces in Afghanistan had a saying,
"when the rocks warm up the Mujahideen come out". Governor
Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, aware that this now applies to the
Taliban, intends to not just counter but preempt any Taliban
and other insurgent spring campaign with one of his own. In
recent days the Governor has conducted a whirlwind of public
meetings, press events, and groundbreaking ceremonies
highlighting the positive, active, and now very public role
of the Afghan Provincial Government.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING
--------------------

3. (SBU) Governor Khpalwak began his spring political
offensive on March 18 by laying the corner stone for
Sharana's first AM radio station. On March 21, he presided
alongside the Provincial Council Chief Nawab Waziri at the
first Islamic New Year celebration in Paktika since the
Taliban banned the holiday in 1996. Thousands of residents
attended this popular event in Sharana's city park despite
Taliban threats that had prevented the event in years past.
Khpalwak also spoke to large audiences at an opening of the
school year event on March 22. On March 23, he presided over
the groundbreaking ceremony for Sar Hawza district's
government and police center as well as the district's first
girls school. Responding to an unsuccessful Taliban attack
on an Afghan National Army and coalition base in Gayan
district, the Governor along with two members of the
Provincial Council traveled to the district on March 25 where
they spoke with and displayed captured weapons and personnel
for the local tribal Shura and national press. Finally, on
March 26, the Governor spoke at the groundbreaking for a new
school and district center in Mata Khan district.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: Governor Khpalwak has recently embraced
the Provincial Council and is rarely seen in public without
the Council's Chairman, Dr. Nawab Waziri. His strong ties to
the Council, along with his many recent public addresses
afforded by the groundbreaking ceremonies of some eleven PRT
building projects, have helped to strengthen the Governor's
influence with the people. His publicity offensive is
continuing with additional school openings and two large
tribal shuras scheduled in April. It is too early to tell
what effect the expected Taliban offensive will have in
Paktika. The Taliban attack in Gayan on 24 March was a
stunning Taliban military and publicity failure. Governor
Khpalwak's recent actions have now clearly put the Taliban on
notice that they are not the only ones vying for power and
influence in Paktika province. END COMMENT

NEUMANN

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