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Cablegate: Prt Uruzgan - the Fight for Chora

VZCZCXRO2111
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2004/01 1721511
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 211511Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8746
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 KABUL 002004

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A. CG CJTF-82 POLAD

E.O. 12958: DE...


112974
2007-06-21
07KABUL2004
Embassy Kabul
SECRET//NOFORN
07KABUL1971|07THEHAGUE1196
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 KABUL 002004

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A. CG CJTF-82 POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/21/2017
TAGS: MOPS PGOV PREL PTER SOCI AF
SUBJECT: PRT URUZGAN - THE FIGHT FOR CHORA

REF: A. KABUL 1971
B. THE HAGUE 1196

Classified By: Ambassador William Wood for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C/REL NATO and AUS) Summary: Chora district
center came under Taliban attack Friday, June 15, the
focal point of a province-wide surge in insurgent
activity. When it looked as if Chora might fall, the
Dutch took the politically difficult decision to go on
the offensive. They mounted successful operations
re-establishing GoA control over Chora and killing key
Taliban commanders. Unfortunately, the fighting also
took a toll on the civilian population. The Taliban
executed residents and their families in retaliation
for their support of the Afghan government.
Preliminary investigations indicate that press reports
of civilian casualties were exaggerated. The PRT is
on the ground to address humanitarian needs arising
from the fighting and to resume reconstruction. No
doubt critics of the Dutch mission in Afghanistan will
attempt to use the fight for Chora as ammunition in
this summer's debate over extension of the Dutch
mission in Uruzgan beyond July 2008; but advocates of
extension are likely to find that the results better
support their cause. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Ref A reported a significant surge in
insurgent activity in Uruzgan. While this pattern was
observed throughout the province, the fight for the
Chora district center was the center of the storm.

----------
The Threat
----------

3. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) As of Sunday, June 17, the
situation in Chora looked bleak. Insurgents had
overrun three checkpoints to the east of the Chora.
ISAF and Afghan forces were hunkered down in the
district center itself, seemingly surrounded. To
the west, local tribal commanders defending Sarab
village lost a checkpoint on the high ground and had
fallen back into the village. Worse, insurgents held
the ground between the two points, preventing one
force from aiding the other. Task Force-Uruzgan (TF-
U) Commander Col. Hans van Griensven commented that it
looked like Chora might fall despite the vigorous
defense the Dutch were mounting. Specifically, they
were firing live rounds from their Panzer Howitzer and
had authorized aircraft providing close air support to
fire on selected targets, techniques usually eschewed
by the Dutch because of the possibility of civilian
casualties.

--------------------------------------------- ----
A Moment of Choice: The Dutch Go on the Offensive
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (S/NF) In the face of this dire situation, TF-U
staff considered two alternatives. They could
withdraw Dutch and Afghan forces from Chora and stay
faithful to a strict interpretation of their
reconstruction mandate in the province. Or they could
commit themselves indefinitely to the fight for Chora,
and for the first time commit their battle group to an
offensive operation without the requirement that the
enemy fire first. The TF-U commander chose to go on
the offensive, recognizing that this might result,
despite their best efforts, in some collateral damage.
General Berlijn, commander of the Dutch armed forces,
authorized this decision.

-----------------------
Fighting the Good Fight

KABUL 00002004 002 OF 004


-----------------------

5. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) On Sunday evening, Dutch
Special Forces attacked Taliban positions at the
southern entrance to the Baluchi Valley, a traditional
Taliban sanctuary that lies between Chora and the
provincial capital Tarin Kowt. Their objective was
to force insurgents in Chora to divert forces to
defend this strategic position. On Sunday night, the
Dutch bombed a location where Taliban commanders were
meeting, resulting in the deaths of the commander in
charge of the operation, Mullah Mutalib, and three
colleagues, Mullahs Ismael, Sadiq, and Ghafour.

6. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) On Monday morning, June 18,
Dutch troops, joined by 90 soldiers of the Afghan
National Army (ANA), attacked insurgents on the west
side of Chora, re-taking checkpoints they had lost
earlier that weekend. Simultaneously, tribal militias
pushed out of Sarab attacked insurgents and re-took
the Sarab Hill checkpoint. Militias led by Khas
Uruzgan District Chief Jar Mohammed and former
provincial Chief of Police Rozie Khan Sarab joined
checkpoint commanders Toor Abdullah and Adul Malek and
their men in this battle. By early afternoon, the
insurgents disengaged and fled. ISAF had once again
re-established control of the Chora district center.
One Dutch soldier was killed and three wounded on
Monday during the fighting. The Dutch have not
reported any casualties among the ANSF.

7. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) The Dutch appeared to have
regained the upper hand, at least for the moment.
Meanwhile, the insurgents were said to be in disarray
and demoralized. They were short on ammunition and
weapons. With their top commanders dead, they lacked
leadership and seemed to be at a loss as to how to re-
group and carry on with the fight. Many fled to safe
areas or hid among the population.

------------------
The Threat Remains
------------------

8. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) While diminished for the time
being, the insurgent threat remains and attacks could
soon start again. A group of insurgents remains in
position between Chora District Center and Sarab.
Another is sitting to the northwest of Chora in the
vicinity of the Niazy checkpoint. There were reports
that 100 reinforcements under the command of Mullahs
Hamdullah and Qahir left Mirabad on Tuesday, June 19,
bound for Chora. Reinforcements could also come from
safe havens in Gizab district and the Baluchi Valley.

9. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) Intelligence indicates the
Taliban in Uruzgan have already established a new
command structure. Mullah Aktar Mohammed has been
tapped as commander for the Chora district. Mullah
Aminullah now commands forces in Cahar Cineh district.
And Qahir Faiz Mohammed is said to now lead the
Taliban in the vicinity of Tarin Kowt, including
Mirabad to the east and Darefshan to the north.

10. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) Some Dutch platoons and ANA
returned from Chora Thursday, June 21, to rest and
refit. Three Dutch platoons, a number of PRT
personnel and about 50 ANA will remain in Chora. The
Dutch will maintain their forces in Chora for the
foreseeable future. They are there to perform a
number of functions: to act as a deterrent to future
attack; to work with ANSF to defend the area; to
provide relief to civilians affected by the fighting;
and to resume reconstruction work. The ANA are likely
to be pulled out as soon as police -- either local
police from Uruzgan or 80 of the ASP who are already
in Uruzgan -- arrive to man and reinforce checkpoints in and
around Chora.


KABUL 00002004 003 OF 004


-------------------
Impact on Civilians
-------------------

11. (U) Daily life in Chora is slowly returning to
normal. The bazaar is open. Children are going to
school. Families that fled the fighting are returning
home. Local men can be seen again on the street.

12. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) But the
fighting took a toll on the local population. There
are multiple reports of civilian casualties in the
press, many of them exaggerated. According to TF-U,
30 plus civilians were killed during the fight (from
June 15 on) and 62 were wounded. These numbers are
still preliminary and do not distinguish between
casualties that resulted from enemy action and those
resulting from ISAF action. The PRT has dispatched
its medical and legal specialists to Chora to work
with local authorities to investigate this issue.

13. (S/REL TO NATO/AUS) The Taliban executed an as
yet undetermined number of civilians. These acts were
directed at those supporting the GoA and their
families. The Dutch have confirmed the executions of
checkpoint commander Abdul Malek's two brothers.
There are multiple reports that checkpoint commander
Toor Jan's family was executed, women and children
included.

14. (S/NF) The PRT has maintained a steady presence
throughout the build-up in tensions and the recent
fighting. Now it is in the process of reinforcing its
team in Chora with additional civil affairs personnel,
police mentors, and subject matter experts. The Dutch
government has put 1.2 million Afghani (approximately
USD 24,000) at the PRT's disposal for emergency relief
(food, blankets, shelter, and clothing). The PRT is
working to access ISAF funds to assist families
repairing and replacing property damaged by the
fighting. However, the Dutch are not prepared to
immediately promise to compensate all those civilians
who claim to have suffered losses. They first want to
compile information on where and when they fired into
the area, so that they might limit payment to those
legitimate claims for which ISAF is responsible. They
also do not appear to have identified a source of
funds for compensation/reconstruction of lives and
personnel property. Possibly because of
their policy to avoid collateral damage at all cost,
they did not have a pre-existing plan/procedure to
deal with this eventuality. Rather, they began
Monday, June 18, to work from scratch to devise a
response to the humanitarian costs of this fight in
Chora.

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

15. (S/NF) The Dutch here acquitted
themselves well in Chora. They
accurately assessed the threat and overcame policy
obstacles to the kind of forward-leaning, offensive
operations demanded by the situation. They dealt the
Taliban a resounding blow, even at the cost of one of
their own. They are carefully but quickly replying to
criticism about civilian collateral damage with facts
and concrete plans to address civilian need, which
prevents the Taliban from getting ahead on this front.
The Dutch government has publicly stated its intent to
continue the mission in the face of the dangers (ref
B). There will be those who use what happened in
Chora to try to argue against the extension of the
Dutch mission in Uruzgan beyond 2008. Strong
arguments for extension can also be extrapolated from
the events of the last week.

16. (S/NF) In a private meeting which included the

KABUL 00002004 004 OF 004


Dutch Ambassador on June 21, President Karzai
expressed concern about use of artillery and the
danger of civilian casualties. Both the Dutch
and ISAF Commander McNeill explained the situation.
We believe/believe the President was reassured.


WOOD

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