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Cablegate: Prt/Gardez: Governor's Plan to Deal with Taliban

VZCZCXRO2640
PP RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0680/01 0610401
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 020401Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6474
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//JF/UNMA//
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUMICEA/JICCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFIUU/COMSOCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3702
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3499
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 6685
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 2028

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 000680

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CR, SCA/PAB, S/CT
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR HARRIMAN
OSD FOR KIMMITT
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76, AND POLAD
RELEASABLE TO NATO/AUST/NZ/ISAF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PREL PGOV AF
SUBJECT: PRT/GARDEZ: GOVERNOR'S PLAN TO DEAL WITH TALIBAN
STRONGHOLD

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Paktia governor Rahmatullah Rahmat announced
on Jan. 30 that he intends to move energetically and
methodically to bring Zormat District, currently
plagued by insurgency, under government control. He
outlined a plan, developed with UNAMA, to reform the
district administrative and security apparatus and
implement high-profile, consensus-building development
schemes. The plan calls for the replacement of
Taliban-influenced officials with loyal government
representatives, enhancement of local ANA and ANP
forces, deploying nearly one-third of Paktia's ANAP
contingent there, a possible increase in coalition
force presence, engagement with tribal leaders to
eliminate Taliban influence in the district shura and
to formalize tribal responsibility for securing the
area. Zormat has been a traditional bastion of
Taliban influence. Insurgents have used the
district's strategic location astride key
transportation routes between Pakistan and central
Afghanistan as a safe haven, staging area, and conduit
for attacks elsewhere. Governor Rahmat's aggressive
personal style and extensive knowledge of the region
and local tribal structures may generate some success
in subduing Zormat, creating a significant blow to the
Taliban's anticipated spring offensive in Central and
Eastern Afghanistan. END SUMMARY.

--------------------
Zormat a Taliban Hub
--------------------


2. (SBU) Paktia Governor Rahmat briefed a meeting of
the PDC on Jan. 30 regarding plans to deal with
Paktia's chief security objective: gaining effective
control of Southeastern Zormat District. Rahmat
stated that Paktia's overall security situation was
not as bad as many parts of the country, but that
Zormat was heavily influenced by Taliban insurgents.
Taliban have exploited the weak tribal structure in
Zormat to gain essential control over the tribal and
district shuras and to intimidate government
officials. The Taliban use the area for safe haven and
transit to coordinate attacks on neighboring provinces
and Kabul. As a result, the provincial government
cannot administer the area effectively nor can
development projects be implemented freely and without
insurgent harassment.

----------------------------
Government to Assert Control
----------------------------

3. (SBU) Rahmat outlined a plan to stabilize Zormat
and establish a viable government presence in the
district, which now lies beyond the pale of his
administration's control. He said that he intends to
develop a strong, pro-government tribal shura in
Zormat that would be responsible for self-policing the
area. The governor explained that he would replace
current Shura members who were either actual Taliban
or under Taliban influence and then sign a self-
policing agreement with the Shura. He would model the

KABUL 00000680 002 OF 003


agreement on one he had signed recently with the
tribal Shura for Northeastern Pathan District, which
borders Pakistan. Under the terms of this agreement,
continued government development assistance is
contingent on Shura compliance in deterring insurgent
activities in the district. Rahmat asserted that
locals caught supporting or participating in Taliban
activities would have their houses destroyed and be
fined 200,000 Afghanis (About USD 4000). The governor
also said that he planned to augment the ANA and ANP
presence in Zormat in order to provide sufficient
security for government administrators and
international aid representatives to operate with
impunity.

-------------
Detailed Plan
---------------

4. (SBU) Governor Rahmat's brief was based on a
detailed "Zormat Stabilization Initiative" that he
developed with UNAMA in concert with the PRT and local
coalition forces. The three-phased plan focuses on
administrative reform, enhanced security, tribal
engagement, and high impact reconstruction/economic
development programs. During the initial phase, the
governor would remove the current disloyal or inactive
officials with trustworthy appointees; notably the
District Commissioner, the local prosecutor, and the
heads of the civil and Ulema courts and create a
supportive religious council. The provincial
government also intends to ensure that local ANA,
ANP, and NDS contingents stationed in Zormat are at
least 80 percent of intended strengths. This move
would result in an added 40 ANP troopers being
stationed in Zormat, for example. In addition, almost
one-third (80 out of 300 total) of the ANAP allotted
to Paktia would be assigned to Zormat after the ANAP
training is completed within the next three months.
Paktia officials also will explore possibilities for
an increased ISAF presence in the district, including
the establishment of a FOB in Zormat.

5. (SBU) In order to address needed administrative
reform, the governor would create an advisory council
of tribal elders to work with him in creating a
representative and responsive district tribal shura.
Provincial officials would similarly consult with
local religious leaders to create a fully functional
religious council, which would help to legitimize
government programs and counter the Taliban's
religious appeal. Development programs would be
designed to provide immediate and concrete benefit to
Zormat residents and, thereby, a practical reason for
backing the government. The PRT, UNAMA, AID and the
GOA would concentrate on low-cost, high impact
development, such as mosque and road refurbishment
and irrigation projects. (Note: Per guidelines,
AID funds would not be used for the mosque
refurbishment. End note.) Activities planned for
the following two phases would seek to strengthen
and institutionalize security, administrative, and
developmental initiatives slated for the initial
phase.

----------
Background

KABUL 00000680 003 OF 003


----------

6. (SBU) Zormat is Paktia's largest and most populous
district and is a transportation hub with major routes
from neighboring Paktika, Ghazni and Logar provinces
passing through its borders. The Taliban, and
previously anti-Russian Mujahidin, frequent a couple
of these routes, especially one starting in Pakistan
and passing through Paktika to Southern Ghazni.
Another connects the district with Taliban bases in
Pakistan through the Zadran District in the Khost-
Paktia pass region. Insurgents also remain in Zormat
and use the district as a staging area. Zormat was a
Taliban stronghold during the Taliban regime and many
Zormatis maintain links with Taliban insurgents.
Taliban influence within the district government and
an ineffective, corrupt ANP presence have made the
area extremely dangerous for development activities
and a viable provincial government presence untenable.
There have been numerous attacks and kidnappings
against government officials and development
implementers. The unimpeded Taliban influence in
Zormat is a de-stabilizing influence for the entire
region; promoting and enhancing insurgent activities
in adjacent provinces. Officials and coalition
representatives fully expect Zormat to be a focus of
insurgent activity during the Taliban's anticipated
spring offensive.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Controlling Zormat is the key to government
counter-insurgency efforts in Paktia. While the Wazi
Zadran and Swak Districts of the Khost-Gardez Pass
region are also insurgent hotbeds, Zormat would appear
to be the more strategic area for thwarting Taliban
activities. The District's size, transportation
routes, and borders with insurgent areas of other
provinces make Zormat a more easily accessed and
infiltrated zone. Governor Rahmat's emphasis on
tribal engagement and self-policing to deter insurgent
activities is one of his fundamental approaches to
building government control throughout the province.
The governor's aggressive personal style and feel for
the local tribal system (he worked for UNAMA in Paktia
for five years) provide hope that he will be able to
negotiate effectively with tribal leaders and not back
down when confronting the insurgent threat.


NEUMANN

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