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Cablegate: Prt Jalalabad: What Next for Poppy Eradication

VZCZCXRO2968
OO RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1356/01 1120816
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 220816Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7648
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 3990

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001356

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
REL NATO/ISAF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER ASEC MARR AF SNAR KCRM
SUBJECT: PRT JALALABAD: WHAT NEXT FOR POPPY ERADICATION

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

1. (SBU) Nangahar Governor Sherzai shared his plans for the
future with officials from the PRT at a lunch on April 18,
including what to do with so much poppy in the province.
Sharzai indicated he will fire officials who do not support
his eradication campaign and complained that even members of
the Provincial Shura and Parliament had themselves planted
poppy. Sherzai wants tougher punishment for those who grow
poppy next year and spraying of fields. He has plans to
continue the fight against the drug mafia, demonstrated in
the very public destruction of illegal drugs that day. The
Director of Religious Affairs met with PRT officials later in
the week and debunked some of the justifications for growing
poppy. He believes that the governor should use the mullahs
more next year to drive home the message that growing poppy
is wrong. END SUMMARY

------------------------
Sherzai Discusses Future
------------------------

2. (SBU) Nangarhar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai warmly
welcomed members of the new PRT team to the Palace on April
18, providing lunch to all soldiers and civilians in the
convoy. He discussed a number of issues, including what to
do in the face of the large amount of poppy that was grown
this year in Nangarhar, in spite of his aggressive anti-poppy
campaign. He declared his intent to fire more line directors
and three more subgovernors who have not been supportive of
the poppy eradication campaign. He specifically mentioned
the Director of the Disabled and Martyrs and the Sherzad
Subgovernor.

3. (SBU) The Governor complained that all but five members
of the Provincial Shura and two Members of Parliament from
Nangarhar planted poppy this year. While he has no authority
over them, Sherzai will discuss the matter with President
Karzai. In a departure from his earlier public opposition to
spraying (he has always privately maintained his support for
spraying with Embassy contacts and pushed the issue with the
Ministry of Interior), Sherzai advocated that next year the
President and Parliament pass a law sentencing poppy growers
to one year in jail and that their fields should be sprayed.
Without tougher measures, he said, poppy production would
continue to increase.

4. (SBU) PRT Officials noted the CNN interview by the
Governor's Special Assistant Masood Azizi earlier in the week
and complimented his articulate remarks debunking the
justifications people made for growing poppy. The Governor
proudly pointed to Nangarhar as being number one in poppy
eradication and further noted that he had a plan to fight the
drug mafia. (Note: UNODC's latest report of verified
eradication indicated that Nangarhar's 1467 hectares of
eradication is second among governor-led efforts, trailing
Kandahar's 7273 hectares. UNODC has informed Embassy that
there is a back-log of unprocessed eradication records from
Nangarhar due to the province's recent intensive activity.
Verified eradication figures for the province should climb
sharply over the upcoming two weeks. End Note). Sherzai
said that he would locate the drug labs and start
confiscating the drugs. Masood appeared later and told the
group that he was on his way to burn seized drugs and that
the international news media including CNN would witness the
destruction. (Press reports appeared the following day
saying that Nangarhar police had destroyed four tons of
narcotics outside of Jalalabad, and the lead of the Day in
Photos on BBC's website showed the group pouring "petrol over
a haul of heroin".)


KABUL 00001356 002 OF 002


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Sajid Shares Thoughts on Growing Poppy
--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) On April 19, PRT officials met Asadullah Sajid,
Nangarhar Director of Religious Affairs, and discussed the
many justifications people offered for growing poppy. While
Sajid confirmed there was flexibility in Islam -- that, for
example, a person who was starving could eat food that was
normally forbidden if that was all that was available, he
debunked the idea that this argument could be used in the
case of most poppy growers who had alternatives to support
themselves, especially those with irrigated lands suitable
for other crops.

6. (SBU) PRT officials asked why he thought there were such
dramatic differences in the amount of poppy being grown in
different districts. Even the newly arrived soldiers at the
PRT were surprise at the difference between the Kama and
Goshta districts on a mission earlier in the week. Kama is
covered in wheat fields ready for harvest while Goshta is
covered in poppy. Sajid attributed this to several factors,
including the fact that people in Kama tended to be more
educated and had a long history of supporting the government.
Similar to the Governor's comments, he said that Members of
Parliament and the Provincial Council from the Goshta
district, in contrast, had planted poppy on their own land
and probably encouraged others to do so as well.

7. (SBU) Sajid thought the Governor needed to stress the
idea that growing poppy was wrong and use the mullahs to
express this more. He also supported the idea of giving aid
to those who did not grow poppy, since many people who did
not grow poppy last year ended up growing it this year. He
noted that districts that grew poppy still received
development projects and international aid.

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

8. (SBU) The Governor is disappointed at the large amount
of poppy throughout the province, clearly identifiable by the
bright red and white flowers covering the fields in some
districts. Early unofficial reports from UNODC suggest that
Nangarhar may top 10,000 hectares of cultivation unless
Governor Sherzai continues his recent pace of strong
eradication. The Governor now knows and accepts that he
cannot fulfill his earlier, and frequent, promises to make
Nangarhar poppy-free this year, but it is clear that he is
not backing down from his aggressive counter-narcotics stance
that has been evident over the past six months. It was
encouraging to hear that he has not given up and recognizes
he must now turn his attention to law enforcement operations
targeting the upcoming harvest, concentrating on those who
will be processing and selling the drugs. The PRT has heard
many officials declare that the fight will be over once the
poppy is harvested; however, Governor Sherzai, we suspect,
will not be one of those who will walk away from this fight.

9. (SBU) (Comment cont.) The Governor announced his intent
to fire 15 district subgovernors in a meeting with PRT
officials on April 4. So far he has only fired three, from
Rodat, Surk Rod, and Hisarek. If he does fire the Sherzad
subgovernor as he announced on April 19, Rodat will be the
only one included in his list of five districts growing 90
percent of the poppy ) Rodat, Chaparhar, Bati Kot, Shinwar,
and Kot.

WOOD

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