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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Visit of Codel Biden to Afghanistan

VZCZCXRO1161
OO RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0409/01 0500932
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 190932Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2876
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI IMMEDIATE 7212
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/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 KABUL 000409

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEW DELHI FOR CODEL BIDEN
STATE FOR SCA FOR A/S BOUCHER AND PMOON
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/CDHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MSHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-82 AND POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON PTER EAID AF
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF CODEL BIDEN TO AFGHANISTAN

1. (SBU) Last year produced solid gains on the battlefield
against the insurgency, on the economy, on local governance
and on reinvigorated army and police train and equip
programs. These gains reflect a surge in U.S. assistance in
FY 2007 (more than in FY 2002-2006 combined) as well as a
more targeted and coordinated approach. Regional
Command-East (RC-East), where U.S. commands ten of the 12
Provincial Reconstruction Teams, has demonstrated that a
coordinated civilian-military effort, backed up by sufficient
resources and increasingly close collaboration with local
Afghan officials, gets results. In RC-East, military and
civilian assets (and assistance) are coordinated through the
PRTs to support and reinforce indigenous security, governance
and development efforts. The approach is recognized by the
United Nation's Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and others as
the model of how the international effort should work to pull
together the scattered elements that are working into a more
coordinated and effective effort.

2. (SBU) Greater investment by our partners and better
international coordination are needed to expand the model
beyond RC-East to other regions and to address outstanding
challenges: an increase in terrorist attacks, narcotics
production and trafficking, lack of capacity in the central
government, endemic corruption and widespread frustration
over the Karzai's government's failure to meet expectations.
This frustration feeds the political and ethnic tensions that
are developing in the run-up to presidential and
parliamentary elections during the 2009-2010 window.
President Karzai's recent criticism of the international
community reflects, in part, his need to share blame for the
government's performance and, in part, his need to show he is
in control of the relationship.

Progress Requires International Coordination and Investment
--------------------------------------------- --------------

3. (SBU) The international effort in Afghanistan suffers
from a lack of coordination, a lack of investment, and
certain donors' preference for writing new plans rather than
supporting the development of sustainable Afghan institutions
and initiatives. We continually urge our partners to invest
in military and police training, central and local
governance, rule of law, elections, and development. An
immediate priority is the appointment of a strong new UN
Special Representative (SRSG) whom the Afghans (including
Karzai) will accept as a partner. We will push for the new
SRSG to be in place before the April NATO summit, as that
will be a critical opportunity for force generation and a
more coherent approach by the Allies. Afghanistan's March
submission of its development strategy to the World Bank
(including energy, roads, justice and health sectors in
detail) will provide raw material for the important
Paris-based donors conference in late spring or early summer.


Security: Our continuing Number One Priority
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Security remains our highest priority. Under
COMISAF General Dan McNeill's leadership, ISAF is bringing
the fight to the enemy and creating new space for political,
economic and social development. Unrelenting ISAF pressure
on the Taliban through the winter, the infusion of U.S.
Marines in April, and a greater role for an increasingly
capable Afghan National Army are being focused on the
districts where the majority of significant events (i.e.,
attacks, suicide bombers and IEDs) are taking place. New
Pakistani engagement against extremists on that side of the
border augers well for 2008. Some allies' a la carte
approach and narrow focus on local responsibilities means the
U.S. will need to continue to shoulder country-wide
responsibility for the hardest part of the job.

5. (SBU) Recognizing that the Afghan police remains the weak
link, in late 2007, the U.S. military launched the Focused
District Development (FDD) program to retrain and re-equip
entire police units, district-by-district. Over the coming

KABUL 00000409 002 OF 004


year, better trained and better equipped units will return to
their home districts to assume duties. Coordination with the
Afghan government (including the Independent Directorate for
Local Governance), ISAF, USAID, and the international
community will facilitate governance and development
initiatives to complement enhanced policing. The goal is
sustainable security improvements introduced in the most
critical districts in the country.

Governance: Our Toughest Challenge
-------------------------------

6. (SBU) Afghanistan's fragile institutions are under
constant stress. President Karzai's cabinet represents a
cross-section of Afghanistan, but it is not necessarily
united, loyal or effective, and he relies heavily on a close
circle of informal loyal advisors. Mujahadin commanders and
warlords continue to hold both appointed and elected
positions and often put tribal and ethnic interests ahead of
the nation's. Strong leadership in key ministries
(Education, Health, Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and
Finance) has produced significant achievements in some
sectors. Other ministries continue to suffer from both weak
leadership and capacity. USAID's Capacity Development
Program works with several ministries, and we support the
World Bank's work with the Civil Service Commission to
develop a national network of training institutes.

7. (SBU) The weak legal system reflects decades of internal
conflict and neglect. The system is afflicted by corruption
at all levels, from the police (under the Ministry of
Interior), to the prosecutors (under the Attorney General),
to the judges (under the Supreme Court), to corrections
(under the Ministry of Justice. Both defendants and their
political patrons or supporters are able to exert undue
influence---either through bribes or violence or the threat
thereof---at every stage of the process. U.S. efforts are
being directed to improve the training and infrastructure for
all of the above judicial system actors, guided in large part
by decisions and commitments made at the July 2007 Rome
Conference on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan.

8. (SBU) Karzai's ongoing tug of war with an increasingly
contentious parliament complicates decision making. Tajik
Speaker of the Lower House Qanooni would like to challenge
Karzai for the presidency but, recognizing the odds against a
non-Pashtun being elected president, is now focused on
pushing for constitutional changes that would result in a
figurehead (Pashtun) president and (Tajik) prime minister.
We are pushing the Palace and the Parliament to come to
agreement on a calendar consistent with the constitution for
the upcoming elections. We also urge passage of a new
election law in time to use the Paris donors conference to
get pledges to support Afghanistan's second round of national
elections since Bonn. Half of U.S. support for the elections
($100 million) is included in the 2008 Supplemental Budget
Request.

9. (SBU) We encouraged and support Karzai's breakthrough
initiative to strengthen local governance as a means of
reaching out to the population. Motivated in part by his
need to win votes in the next election, Karzai established
the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) in
late 2007, charging it with strengthening provincial and
local governance to provide services, development, and
security. We are seeing results, including better
appointments, coordination, and accountability at the
provincial level. We are encouraging other donors to support
this initiative, which represents a well-received, home-grown
Afghan counterinsurgency program.

Development and Economic Growth: Necessary for Success
--------------------------------------------- ----------

10. (SBU) The Afghan economy grew by 13 percent in 2007,
thanks in large part to high agricultural yields as a result
of good snowfalls. This winter, there have been record
snows, which augurs well for a second good agricultural year,

KABUL 00000409 003 OF 004


though there have been hundreds of human deaths and thousands
of farm and burden-carrying animals lost due to the hard
winter conditions and the high price of grains. We have
responded to the government's appeal for food assistance by
providing 30,000 metric tons of grain through the World Food
Program. We in turn support the strong Finance Minister as
he resists calls to buy commodities at high market prices or
to introduce anti-market measures to control food prices. In
April, the IMF will meet to determine its response if
Afghanistan has not closed the current gap on revenue
collection for the current year and meet its structural
reform targets.

11. (SBU) Our development priorities are energy and roads.
USAID is working on four major power projects (including
Kajaki Dam in Helmand Province) and a number of smaller-scale
projects in key districts. We continue road-building, the
most popular form of development assistance, which
facilitates access to markets and helps secure areas. We
seek to maximize the use of Afghans in our projects -- to
create jobs, to cut costs, and to train the work force Much
of our assistance is coordinated with the government and
local populations through the PRTs, which support the
official provincial planning process.

12. (SBU) A development proposal that will help Afghanistan
rebuild its economic infrastructure will be considered by
Congress in late spring/early summer. We are poised to
support Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) which, along
with a strategy to encourage increased trade and economic
activity along the Afghan-Pakistan border, will prompt Afghan
policymakers to improve labor standards, cut down on
cross-border smuggling, and provide employment opportunities
to Afghans. The bill will grant duty-free treatment for
goods produced in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Counter narcotics: Afghanistan's Special Problem
--------------------------------------------- ----

13. (SBU) In its report for 2007, the UNODC reported that
Afghanistan's poppy crop reached record levels, with some
193,000 hectares under cultivation. Favorable weather
compounded the problem by making the crop particularly
productive, resulting in Afghanistan alone producing 8,200
tons or 93 percent of the world's opium. In its Rapid
Assessment Survey, released in February 2008, the UNODC is
predicting 2008 will see Afghanistan-wide cultivation levels
similar to or slightly lower than 2007.

14. (SBU) Successes in reducing production in certain
provinces in the East and North and the links between the
insurgency and continuing high levels of production in the
South are reflected in a growing segmentation of Afghan poppy
production. We are seeing positive results of efforts by
committed governors in Nangarhar and other provinces where
security allows counter narcotics campaigns. Both the UNODC
and the U.S. predict continue success in reducing production
in Nangarhar Province, where cultivation increased by 285
percent in 2007, but is on target to decrease by 50 percent
or more in 2008. Improved security and government control
nation-wide are needed for counter narcotics efforts to
succeed in all regions. The new Local Governance Directorate
plans to hold governors accountable for poppy production in
their provinces, but the government must also be prepared to
support more strident eradication measures, including the
provision of force protection and possible use of chemical
spray. The government has committed to providing army units
for force protection this year, but nothing tangible has been
put forward. President Karzai, on the advice of his cabinet,
decided against the use of chemical spray for eradication in
2008.

Regional Dynamics: A Complicating Factor
-----------------------------------------

15. (SBU) Afghanistan's efforts to build a secure and stable
state are complicated by its relationships with its
neighbors. We supported the cross-border peace jirga that

KABUL 00000409 004.2 OF 004


Afghanistan hosted in Kabul in August 2007, which was a first
step in a bilateral effort to address the cross-border flow
of insurgents and eliminate safe havens in Pakistan's
Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The jirga began a
dialogue on a series of bilateral initiatives and helped
temper heated public rhetoric between Karzai and Musharraf.
Both presidents have new appreciation of the difficulties the
other faces at home. Afghans are concerned about increased
Iranian meddling and reports of arms being provided to the
Taliban, but they underline the importance of cultural ties
to, assistance from, and commerce with Iran.
WOOD

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