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Cablegate: Khost Province: Stable Security Situation and Good

VZCZCXRO7234
RR RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0173/01 0211313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211313Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2468
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 000173

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO DAS CAMP, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-82 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MCAP MOPS PREL PGOV PTER PHUM AF
SUBJECT: KHOST PROVINCE: STABLE SECURITY SITUATION AND GOOD
GOVERNANCE PERMIT SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY

REF: 07 Kabul 3913

1. (SBU) Summary: Khost's security situation has improved over the
last six months. Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition
Forces have performed joint operations in less secure areas, and
police morale is improving. The generally stable security situation
has allowed significant reconstruction and development work in the
province. Khost has an extremely effective governor in Arsala
Jamal.

Security
--------
2. (SBU) Khost has a largely positive security environment despite
its border location and immediate proximity to North Waziristan,
Pakistan. Only two of Khost's 13 districts (Sabari and Gorbiz) are
classified as somewhat insecure, but Coalition Forces (CF) and
Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are able to operate even in
those two districts. Recent sectarian fighting between Sunni and
Shia groups in Pakistan's Kurram Agency has led to an influx of
refugees (about 600 families) into Khost. UNHCR and the provincial
government have been able to provide assistance to the refugees.

3. (SBU) Strong coordination between CF and ANSF has helped sustain
the stable security environment in Khost. U.S. military units
remain positioned alongside ANSF at seven of the 13 district
centers. A recent joint ANSF and CF-initiated operation ("Matoon")
in Sabari District and Zambar region was designed to lessen
extremist influence in the area. It has seen strong initial success
with a surprising number of elders welcoming the operation; this
success is tempered by some resident complaints concerning repeated
searches of compounds and about missing household items.

4. (SBU) Governor Jamal has regularly requested closer involvement
of provincial leaders prior to detention operations, to the extent
possible. Asking officials (governor and sub-governors primarily)
to bring in targeted residents for questioning - or eventual
handover - represents a sensitive area still in need of improvement.
CF are aware of this priority.

5. (SBU) Recent pay parity salary increases have helped improve
morale among Khost police. The force has had some difficulty
staffing security positions in one border district (Spera).
Officers argue that those who volunteer for duty in the most
volatile areas should receive "danger pay." Khost residents
continue to complain of police corruption.

Development
-----------
6. (U) The PRT's "outside-in" project strategy, which emphasizes
development in remote areas of the province, makes use of
Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) funding, with an
estimated USD 43M in CERP funds expended in Khost in the last six
months. All districts with the exception of a few isolated areas
continue to see significant levels of reconstruction. Recent
military operations in Zanbar, Sabari District -- one of the areas
with little development activity -- will allow projects to begin.

7. (U) Work on the Khost-Gardez road - the major transit route
between Khost and Kabul - is set to begin this spring, implemented
by USAID partner Louis Berger Group. Improved winter maintenance -
also a USAID initiative - should help prevent road closures. Khost
leaders and residents continue to press the PRT for an airport plan.
Only U.S. forces use both of the province's current runways. Khost
provides a large manual labor pool to Gulf States, and air travel
access to Kabul would help expand work opportunities and promote
greater investment.

Governance
----------
8. (SBU) The reach and visibility of Khost provincial officials has
improved across the province. Individual leader effectiveness,
however, remains mixed. The gap between Khost residents and
provincial government has closed, but there remain criticisms of
corruption. Relations between Khost and Kabul have improved
recently. Notably, a delegation of Khost officials (Governor Jamal,
Provincial Council members, and Members of Parliament) met with IRoA
ministers in November to press province-wide priorities (reftel).

KABUL 00000173 002 OF 002


Their unified voice led to positive follow-up by some ministers (the
Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), for
example) but not others (Agriculture).

9. (U) Governor Jamal remains a strong leader, ably managing
relations with the PRT, the tribes, Kabul, and the media. He
survived suicide car bomb attacks in August and October. Governor
Jamal enjoys good relations with key constituencies such as tribes,
religious leaders and civil society.

10. (U) The Provincial Council (PC) is a functioning body dominated
by a few key members. The chairman usually represents it at
project-opening ceremonies. Female members have been largely absent
from events. The PC has sought a larger role in project
prioritization; a new reconstruction committee (echoing an already
established and effective security committee) will give PC members a
more formal role.

11. (SBU) Khost's district administrators are based at district
centers throughout the province. In key areas, they have helped
improve relations with residents and have increasingly been brought
into discussions about project priorities. Weak district
administrators have been reassigned. Some friction remains between
officials who were associated with the former Communist government
and those who led opposing mujahadeen forces.

12. (U) Some line ministries function well in Khost, particularly
MRRD. The Provincial Development Council meets regularly to
prioritize projects. USAID has funded a program to help improve
capabilities. Line ministry directors regularly compliment the
active and well-funded PRT project strategy, while remaining
critical of IRoA follow-up regarding provincial priorities.

WOOD

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