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Cablegate: Baghlan Bombing Aggravates Karzai-Qanooni Split

VZCZCXRO4807
OO RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #4153/01 3521339
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181339Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1994
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN 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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 004153

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV AF PTER
SUBJECT: BAGHLAN BOMBING AGGRAVATES KARZAI-QANOONI SPLIT

REF: KABUL 3774

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The November 6 Baghlan bombing, did not
unite Afghans of all ethnicities in their revulsion for the
insurgency and its methods. Instead it provided the latest
proxy for the ongoing political contest between President
Karzai and Lower House Speaker and United Front leader
Mohammad Yonus Qanooni (reftel). Within a day of the
atrocity, Qanooni had castigated government security services
for incompetence in securing the Baghlan and national
populations from terrorist attack. He demanded the immediate
dismissal of several provincial officials, including the
Karzai-appointed governor. Reluctant to surrender
presidential prerogative on senior-level personnel
management, Karzai demurred, but promised to suspend the
officials pending a Ministry of Interior investigative team's
report. When a parallel parliamentary investigation revealed
Karzai had not executed his promise, a petulant Qanooni
attempted to shut down the Lower House for the remaining
month of its term. Ultimately, Karzai did opt to transfer
several of the officials, but preserved presidential
prerogative by acting on his Minister of Interior's
recommendation, not Qanooni's insistence. MPs, discomfited
by the prospect of a constitutional crisis, and the possible
loss of their own parliamentary pay and privileges, pressured
Qanooni to abandon his walkout. The Karzai-Qanooni power
struggle will likely deepen as the country moves towards the
2009 presidential elections. END SUMMARY

Step by Step from Tragedy to Political Farce
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Qanooni acted quickly to exploit the Baghlan bombing
for political advantage in his ongoing struggle with Karzai.
Two days after the attack, he commissioned a parliamentary
inquiry, implying the unreliability of the Ministry of
Interior investigation already under way. He also
orchestrated a parliamentary request that the president
dismiss seven provincial officials, including the
Karzai-appointed Baghlan governor, on grounds of incompetence
or even possible complicity in the attack. Though this
request lacked constitutional justification, Qanooni's office
argued that parliament's role as the representative of
Afghanistan's people gave it a right to encroach upon the
president's senior-level personnel management prerogative.
When Karzai demurred, Qanooni claimed that the president was
defying the will of the people. In a November 15 press
conference, Karzai appeared to yield by agreeing to suspend
the seven Baghlan officials pending the Ministry of Interior
investigating team's report.

3. (SBU) Returning to Kabul November 26, neither team was
able identify the perpetrators; both focused on the
provincial government's failure to forestall the attack.
Parliament's team revealed that Karzai had not acted on his
promise to suspend the seven Baghlan officials, and alleged
that those same officials had obstructed the investigations.
Qanooni declared Karzai's failure to suspend the officials an
insult to parliament and called for a suspension of Lower
House sessions for the remaining month of its term.

Qanooni's House Divided
-----------------------

4. (SBU) United Front MPs departed the chamber en masse,
asserting that, if Karzai continued to flout parliament's
will, its work would be meaningless. Karzai supporters
remained and made statements to the press denouncing
Qanooni's departure as illegal. Independent MPs, however,
discomfited by the prospect of a constitutional crisis, which
might cost them their incomes and privileges, sent
delegations to Qanooni's office in an effort to get the
speaker to relent. Later, they arranged a meeting between
Qanooni
and Karzai.

5. (SBU) Qanooni told Karzai he would not reconvene

KABUL 00004153 002 OF 002


parliament until the president fired the seven Baghlan
officials. Qanooni attempted to goad Karzai by implying that
his refusal to dismiss the officials was merely an effort to
conceal his own government's incompetence. Qanooni's
strategic goal was likely to establish a precedent for
parliamentary review of presidential personnel actions.

Situation Defused
-----------------

6. (SBU) Over the next few days, senior government officials
reacted to Qanooni's verbal offensive by, rather artfully,
diffusing possible blame for the bombing across several
offices and levels of government. Interior Minister Zerar
Ahmad Muqbel said November 27, "the incident occurred due to
the negligence of the provincial officials from top to
bottom, as well as officials in (Farouk Wardak's) Ministry of
Parliamentary Affairs." He added, "the officials who have
neglected the orders of the government need to be either
fired, transferred, or prosecuted." In a private meeting
with Qanooni on the same day, Karzai said he would consider
suspending, dismissing, transferring or prosecuting nine
Baghlan officials; however, he would be acting on the
recommendation of his minister of interior, not Qanooni's
insistence. Qanooni declared victory, but without
establishing precedent for parliamentary review of the
president's personnel actions.

It Will Likely Get Worse
------------------------

7. (SBU) The Karzai-Qanooni power struggle will likely deepen
as the country moves towards the 2009 presidential elections.
Nevertheless, it may constructively serve to turn the theory
of the constitution into the practical procedures and
protocols that will define the relative limits of
presidential and parliamentary power.
WOOD

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