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Cablegate: Helmand Province - Poppy Eradication Force's Pre-Planting

VZCZCXRO0446
RR RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #3135 2611226
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181226Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0293
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4212
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHOND/DIR ONDCP WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHDC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS KABUL 003135

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA, SCA/A, INL/AP, INL/FO, AND INR
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
ONDCP FOR DIRECTOR

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SNAR KCRM AF
SUBJECT: HELMAND PROVINCE - POPPY ERADICATION FORCE'S PRE-PLANTING
CAMPAIGN HAS GOOD START

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Poppy Eradication Force (PEF) conducted a
pre-planting outreach campaign in Helmand Province from August 29
through September 5, 2007. The PEF organized two well-attended
Shuras with area elders and met with numerous farmers in the
Lashkargah area. No security incidents occurred, and the PEF team
was well received by Helmand residents. Farmers expressed support
of the outreach effort but said they were disappointed with GoA
efforts to support alternative agriculture programs and with the
slow pace of development in Lashkargah. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
PEF Campaign Off to a Good Start
--------------------------------
2. (SBU) The PEF conducted a pre-planting outreach campaign in
Helmand province from August 29 through September 5. The PEF
Commander, General Ahmad Zai, delivered a consistent message at two
large Shuras attended by hundreds of Helmand residents: the PEF
would conduct a poppy eradication campaign in Helmand Province, and
Helmand farmers must stop poppy cultivation and move to alternative
agriculture production. The Deputy Governor, Haji Pir Mohammad, and
Helmand Chief of Police General Andiwol delivered strong
counternarcotics (CN) messages to support the PEF, telling shura
attendees that increased poppy production contributed to the
instability in Helmand and that further development was unlikely
without a reduction in poppy production.

-------------------------
Helmand Residents Respond
-------------------------
3. (SBU) Residents welcomed the chance to discuss the issue with GoA
authorities. Some attendees expressed anger at the GoA for its
failure to deliver on previous promises and said they were
disappointed at the slow pace of development in Helmand. Many
admitted the choice to grow poppy was simply about earning more
money for their crops and said they were unwilling to stop planting
poppy until either the GoA or the international community provided
significant subsidies to grow alternative agriculture. Some of the
most vocal elders accused the GoA of collusion with the
narco-traffickers and said that poppy production would not decrease
in Helmand until the central government fulfilled previous promises.
The crowd applauded the comments against the central government and
supported calls for greater assistance from the GoA.

-------
Comment
-------
4. (SBU) The PEF pre-planting public outreach operation in Helmand
was well-organized, and coordination between PEF and the PRT was
very good. Hundreds of area residents attended the public forums
and engaged the PEF in lively debates about current operations and
previous GoA efforts. This pre-planting outreach effort put
hundreds of Helmand farmers on notice that eradication forces will
be back in 2007-08, which could increase the risk of growing poppy
and might move some farmers towards alternative agriculture
production. However, many Helmand farmers are clearly frustrated at
the GoA and want significant development and agricultural support
before they halt poppy production.
END COMMENT.

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