Cablegate: Prt/Mazar: Semi-Annual Report On Security,

DE RUEHBUL #0979/01 0850526
P 260526Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Northwest Afghanistan enjoys a better
security situation than much of the rest of the country but
drought and crime hamper development. The Afghan National
Police (ANP) and the judicial system need much work but
progress has begun with the ANP. The balance of power
between Tajik-dominated Jamiyat and Uzbek-dominated Junbesh
political parties has been somewhat disrupted by improved
organization among the Pashtuns and other forces and the
perceived weakening of Junbesh leader General Dostum. The
caliber of governance remains low and corruption is rampant,
although the new chiefs of police may bring improvements.
The media is playing a greater role in the region, increasing
the importance of the battle for public opinion. The
regional economy is stunted by water shortages, although the
major urban center of Mazar-e Sharif continues to grow.
Re-opening oil and gas production in Sheberghan, construction
of a gas-fired power plant there, and completion of the North
East Power System connections to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
could stimulate faster economic growth. Taliban values never
took hold in the northwest, so girls can go to school if
their families can afford it and women can put aside their
burkas if they are ready. Overall, trends in the region are
positive but the pace is painfully slow. Many residents
still fear the international community will leave and the
Taliban will return. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU) Northwest Afghanistan includes the provinces of
Faryab, Jowzjan, Sar-e Pul, Samangan, and Balkh. The Amu
Darya river marks their long northern border with the Central
Asia. The northern area by the river border is largely
desert; south of that is an agricultural belt that has
suffered severely from drought; the mountainous area further
south is a mountainous area that is largely inaccessible in
winter. The region's 2.8 million residents are a mix of
Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmens, Pashtuns and Hazaras. One quarter
of the population lives in the vicinity of Mazar-e Sharif,
although the provinces cover nearly fifty thousand square
miles. Traditional trading and smuggling routes crisscross
the region.

Security Fairly Stable
3. (SBU) Security in the region during the winter improved,
probably due to a weather-related decrease in crime, and
remains better than in many parts of the country. Insurgent
activity is largely limited to recruitment, propaganda,
winter resting and smuggling. Taliban and Hezb-Islami
Gulbuddhin (HiG) party representatives work with local power
brokers (LPBs) in the rampant and lucrative smuggling of
drugs and weapons. There have been few improvised explosive
devices (IEDs) and no suicide bombings. The spate of school
burnings last summer stopped in the fall and has not resumed.
The Disarmament of Illegally Armed Groups (DIAG) process is
moribund but caches of old weapons and ammunition continue to
turn up. It is suspected that locals are moving unexploded
ordnance (UXO) they find in the fields to the side of the
road so ISAF will find and dispose of them.

Biggest Threat: Local Crime
4. (SBU) Crime is the biggest security issue facing most
residents. Motorcycle gangs work stretches of the highways
(Route Ring North) in good weather and many LPBs terrorize
their local populations. Notorious subcommander Wali
Mohammed was killed in a firefight with international and
Afghan national security forces (ANSF) in Balkh in November,
to the great relief of many local residents and GOA

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officials. After his death there was a noticeable downturn
in incidents in the area. We received reports that other
LPBs worried they would meet the same fate and curtailed
their illegal activities accordingly. (COMMENT: This bounce
will only be temporary if ANSF and ISAF are unable to follow
up with arrests of other mid-level LPBs on wanted lists. END

5. (SBU) NGOs continue to be nervous about safety, mainly
because of unrest in the country as a whole and the threat of
violent crime. A car belonging to an NGO in Sar-e Pul was
attacked in what many NGOs believe was a robbery. Other than
several attacks on the Asian road construction teams paving
the ring road in Faryab where criminals want to prevent ANSF
and ISAF from gaining easy access to their operating area,
there is no evidence that foreigners are being targeted. A
substantial upturn in security incidents during poppy
harvesting season and eradication operations is expected,
with the aim of preventing extensive patrolling of drug

National Security Forces: Slow, Steady Reform
6. (SBU) The Afghan National Army (ANA) is the most
respected branch of the ANSF operating in the northwest, but
their presence is limited. PRT and other international
forces work with them regularly and the mentoring programs
are showing progress. Experts put the ANP at 3-4 years
behind the ANA; the U.S. operates a regional police training
center in Mazar-e Sharif to help the ANP catch up. The U.S.
training focus in the northwest has shifted to the Afghan
National Civil Order Police, but basic skills are still
lacking everywhere. Three quarters of the ANP in the region
do not even know how to read or write. Reports of local
police exploiting their own communities are not uncommon. A
district police office in Sar-e Pul was exchanging firewood
for sex with boys. Other reports involve forced sex or
stealing food aid. Police pay and rank reform is proceeding
slowly but steadily. Banks now operate in the provincial
centers so police can get paid their actual salaries.
Previously, police were paid in cash, and money was skimmed
off the top before it reached its intended recipients. Also,
there were previously fewer banks, so it was logistically not
possible to send money electronically to the provinces in
many cases. Now, however, most regional centers have banks,
and the improved infrastructure has allowed for an improved
payment distribution system.

7. (SBU) The next reform step is the replacement of the
district chiefs of police. Some COPs are trying to do a good
job, but many are corrupt and/or incompetent. New leadership
at the provincial level should help. Three of the five
provincial chiefs of police in the region were on the
national probation list (14 individuals in total were on the
list); they were all replaced in January. One positive sign
of change: the new Balkh Chief of Police (COP) is tackling
corruption involved with the issuance of passports, which are
valid for one year. The COP signs the passports in a public
room to show that he is taking nothing for his signature.
Officially, passports cost less than twenty dollars, but the
previous COP charged approximately one thousand daily
applicants USD 300-400 each. Rumor has it that the price is
down to USD 160 and will drop more as others who take their
cut in the process are removed.

8. (SBU) The public has a justifiably low opinion of the
effectiveness of not only the ANP but also the judicial
system. Major and minor criminals with influence or money
can, and do, buy their way out of jail. Men and women are
held in jail for months without being charged with any crime.
Residents prefer to use the Provincial Councils to settle
civil disputes because the courts are ineffective, corrupt
and expensive. Returning refugees, especially Pashtuns, often

KABUL 00000979 003 OF 006

find their land has been taken by others so many land
disputes end up before the Provincial Councils.
Consequently, the PRT receives many exaggerated reports of
Taliban activity by residents trying to discredit returnees.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Politics: Self-Interested Governors Poor Administrators
--------------------------------------------- ----------
9. (SBU) The five Governors in the northwest present
studies in contrast:
-Governor Latif of Faryab has a reputation as ineffective,
corrupt and controlled by General Dostum,s Junbesh party.
PRToff has seen nothing to contradict this. His ambitious
deputy governor Abdul Sattar Barez has better managerial
skills and more interest in accountability to the people, but
no power.
-Jowzjan Governor Hamdard, who harbors ambitions to lead
Pashtun political forces in the north and has Taliban/HiG
connections, is a crafty individual who runs his own agenda
while claiming loyalty to Karzai. He aims to replace Balkh
Governor Atta. During the recent high tensions between a new
political force, the Turkic Council headed by Akbar Bay, and
Dostum's Junbesh party, Hamdard spent more time in Kabul
checking up on his political opponents than he did at home
controlling the outbreaks of violence. The other parties
resent rising Pashtun influence in the area as new
appointments of Pashtun officials are attempted. Friction is
particularly strong in the broad areas controlled by
Dostum,s Junbesh party (this includes much of Hamdard,s
Jowzjan province), probably in part because Dostum,s
strength has begun to wane.
-Sar-e Pul Governor Munib is corrupt, has HiG connections and
is allied with the notorious commander Haji Payenda Khan, who
is reportedly the real power in Sar-e Pul province.
-Governor Shafaq of Samangan provides the best governance out
of all the northwestern governors, but he still needs to work
on his management skills.
-Balkh Governor Atta, a Tajik former mujaheddin commander and
a national figure, has the most experience, power, income and
visibility of the five. Rumors of his corruption and drug
ties persist. He is a leader of Jamiyat party (founded by
former President Rabbani in 1971), whose main rival remains
Junbesh party despite their having formed alliances of
opportunity including against the splinter Azadi party in
Faryab. Atta's word is law in Balkh; this year he used it to
the GOA's advantage with his strong anti-poppy campaign.
Preliminary indications show the crop will be far smaller
than last year.

10. (SBU) Balkh is the only province with a functioning
professional staff in the Governor's office, but these
staffers primarily look after Atta,s needs, which do not
always coincide with the interests of the people. Attorney
General Sabit has been examining reports that they take
bribes. Sabit has also been quite active in Jowzjan, which
makes Dostum nervous. Munib has made a show of looking into
corruption at the district level in Sar-e Pul but nothing has
come of it. Balkh has been a pilot province for GOA-led
administrative and budgeting reform, and results are visible
at the local level. Line ministries in Mazar are generally
staffed by competent individuals; this is not always the case
in the other provinces.

11. (SBU) The Provincial Councils (PCs) all function
somewhat effectively by Afghan standards although the council
head in Balkh is completely under the Governor's control.
Junbesh controls the PC in Jowzjan. Almost all officials
spend much time away from their jobs. Samangan's
administration grinds to a halt when Governor Shafaq is away.

Mass Media Growing

KABUL 00000979 004 OF 006

12. (SBU) The media has diversified and increased in recent
months, as has public access to both TV and radio. Public
opinion is becoming increasingly important in the region.
Governor Atta is particularly media savvy. General Dostum is
not. Most of the population continues to view the provincial
governments (and the national government) as corrupt and
ineffective and media coverage of government excesses is
increasing. Governor Atta forbade Balkh TV from airing a
story about the Attorney General's investigation of Atta,s
notorious Chief of Technical Services, but the story got out

--------------------------------------------- -----
Locals Disillusioned With Karzai, Wary of Pashtuns
--------------------------------------------- -----
13. (SBU) Most of the population supports or at least
tolerates both ISAF and the central government. Hostile
propaganda centers are small and few. However, a substantial
number of residents doubt the staying power of the
international community and the ability of Kabul to maintain
control, expecting it is only a matter of time before the
Taliban will return. Few are actively looking for
alternatives to Karzai, but they feel his government favors
the Pashtuns. Elites feel that the Pashtuns are trying to
regain the power in the north that they lost when they were
defeated by the Northern Alliance. Ordinary people point to
their villages and say there is no development. Uzbeks and
Tajiks resent how the Pashtun pockets have allegedly received
a particularly high concentration of development assistance
and have a higher standard of living yet security incidents
remain elevated in these areas and poppy cultivation is
widespread, weakening the argument that good behavior is
rewarded. The GOA's and ISAF's struggle against the
insurgency will likely increasingly be waged in the media in
the northwest, where actual incidents are few but propaganda
opportunities considerably greater.

Agrarian Economy Suffers Water Shortage
14. (SBU) The economy in the northwest, outside of the few
urban centers, remains primarily agricultural, dominated by
rain-fed crops and animal husbandry. The long years of
drought have weakened the sector across the region as cereal
and other crops have failed several years in a row
(unfortunately there has been no negative effect on the
drought-resistant poppy crop). Temperatures have been higher
than normal and rain and snow shortfalls have decreased river
flow and ground water, drying up fields and pastures. Poor
water management infrastructure and spring flooding displaces
many residents and destroys homes; however these same regions
are completely dry by summer. The GOA has planned some major
water projects, but the shortfall is already critical and
many communities cannot wait the years it will take for dams
and other works to be built. Water shortages feed tensions
between communities and have led to the threat of riots in
Jowzjan over accusations that some districts use up the water
in the river before it reaches districts downstream. Animals
are being slaughtered prematurely across the region because
farmers cannot afford to feed them.

Farmers Leaving to Find Work Elsewhere
15. (SBU) Impoverishment of farmers is a growing problem
across the region. Displacement of farmers to urban centers
continues. Many young men go abroad to work, usually leaving
families behind. The Shia go to Iran and the Sunni to
Pakistan. Before, few left the region for other provinces
but now some families leave for Baghlan or Kunduz (where
there is more water), or even Kabul. The drought is
particularly severe in Faryab, Sar-e Pul and Samangan.
Industry is limited. USAID is looking at reviving oil and
gas production around Sheberghan as well as construction of a

KABUL 00000979 005 OF 006

gas-fired power plant. North East Power System (NEPS)
transmission lines from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will
cross some of these provinces, providing electricity for
future growth. Meanwhile, the fertilizer factory in Mazar-e
Sharif lacks the natural gas it needs to operate. Old
factories such as the Soviet-built bread factory on the
outskirts of Mazar remain derelict. Turkmen communities
weave carpets, often the major source of income in these
rural areas.

Mazar: Center of Commerce
16. (SBU) The economic heart of the northwest remains Mazar-e
Sharif, where the economy is growing steadily. The paved
portions of North Ring Road are now dotted with modern (and
some less modern) gas stations and vehicle traffic is
sometimes heavy. However, most other roads in the region are
not paved. Faryab province has only twenty miles of paved
roads; the Ring Road there will take another few years to
complete. Markets in urban centers are full but many people
lack money to buy goods. Merchants spend a lot of time
waiting for customers. Commercial traffic entering
Afghanistan through northwest border crossing points is
increasing, but it appears that little of the revenue
collected by customs officials is making it into GOA coffers.
Allegedly, the majority of customs duties collected is
divided among Dostum, Atta and some minor players. The
Border Management Initiative is looking at improving duty
collection and transmission to Kabul. Communications links
are poor, hampering business development. The drug trade is
a major source of income in the region, particularly for
LPBs, who in turn pay their subcommanders and other

--------------------------------------------- -----------
Cultural/Social Situation: Rural Life Sees Little Change
--------------------------------------------- -----------
17. (SBU) While conditions in the urban centers have
improved substantially in recent years, lives of those living
in rural isolation have changed much less. Clinics are more
common and doctors more readily available in district
centers. Remote areas lack clinics and any winter service,
cutting thousands of people off from healthcare for months at
a time. Salaries in remote areas are too low to attract the
limited supply of healthcare professionals, who are also put
off by the isolation. Provincial hospitals have improved.
Balkh hospital in Mazar-e Sharif burned last year, crippling
critical care resources in this major urban center. The
Germans are helping to re-equip the hospital. There are no
indigenous civil society organizations.

Burkas Optional, But Forced Marriage Common
18. (SBU) Taliban values never really took hold in the
northwest. Although women wearing burkas are still seen on
the streets, this is due in part to the greater number of
women who are now getting out of the home. Many women
apparently still feel more comfortable wearing a burka, but
some women, particularly those in Mazar-e Sharif, wear
headscarves. Educated women are more likely not to wear a
burka, but they are also more likely to travel by car, so
fewer of them are visible on the streets. Violence against
women is still a problem, despite ongoing education campaigns
by the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Some women, many
underage, are married against their will, and girls are, in
some instances, given as brides to settle disputes between
families. Others are contracted for marriage while still in
childhood. The Ministry of Women's Affairs runs literacy and
other educational programs in the provincial capitals, and in
some districts in Balkh Province. The World Food Program
donates food to these programs for women to take home to
their families.

KABUL 00000979 006 OF 006

--------------------------------------------- -----
More Girls In Schools, But Teacher Quality Is Poor
--------------------------------------------- -----
19. (SBU) More girls are now going to school than
previously, although many schools lack buildings and classes
are held in tents, the open air or in borrowed facilities.
Most schools run two shifts. Teachers are in short supply
and salaries are low, meaning that remote rural areas have
great difficulty in attracting teachers. Some teachers are,
themselves, illiterate; in the rural areas teachers who have
only finished primary school are common. More secondary
schools are being built. In the countryside, girls stay in
school at least four years. Boys are more likely to stay at
least until the seventh year. Children are mainly taken out
of school primarily for economic reasons. In Mazar-e Sharif
many girls and boys go to secondary school, and even the
older girls typically do not wear burkas.

© Scoop Media

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