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Cablegate: In Politics Dominated by Giants, Reformers Are

VZCZCXRO7973
OO RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0688/01 0781247
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181247Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3289
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 000688

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: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: IN POLITICS DOMINATED BY GIANTS, REFORMERS ARE
VULNERABLE

REF: A. 07 KABUL 3498
B. KABUL 667

1. (SBU) Summary: The number of Afghan political parties has
grown dramatically since the fall of the Taliban. Though
small party leaders often explore coalitions and alliances,
two primary competing blocs are emerging: the United Front
opposition, and a looser coalition around Karzai. Both
groups are courting prospects across the range of wholly new
political parties and various splinter groups. The United
Front offers small parties a voice in the National Assembly
and promises leaders positions in a future government.
Karzai dangles improved government services, government jobs
and sinecures. The competition has increasingly left
reformers, who are unwilling to choose between what they
consider two unattractive alternatives, isolated, powerless,
and at risk of irrelevance.

Whales Hunt the Little Fish
---------------------------

2. (SBU) Political parties have proliferated since the fall
of the Taliban; over eighty have registered with the Ministry
of Justice. Most of these are either fragments of old
parties or jihadi groups, whose ambitious leaders struck out
on their own, or new parties founded by often idealistic
reformers who returned to Afghanistan after 2001. Palace
Policy Advisor Sebgatullah Sanjar categorizes today's parties
in four groups: pre-communist, such as Afghan Millat;
jihadi, such as Jamiat (Rabanni); ethnic, such as Junbesh
(Uzbek); and newly emerging, such as the 3rd Line (REF A).
Despite the reformers, propensity for ideological politics,
Afghanistan's political landscape remains dominated by
personal and ethnic alliances. Various attempts by reformist
parties to form more powerful political blocs have failed
because of misgivings about the ideological compromise
required of allies and leaders' unwillingness to cede
personal power to a committee of parties.

3. (SBU) Two expanding factions increasingly dominate Afghan
politics, the United Front opposition and Karzai supporters.
Both groups are focused on building pan-national electoral
support, but remain ethnically dominated and operate largely
behind closed doors. Independent groups that refuse to align
with one of these giants risk irrelevance and political
oblivion.

Two Groups Canvassing for Electoral Support
-------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The United Front and President Karzai are competing
in their efforts to entice weak and small parties into their
respective camps. The United Front promises a voice in the
National Assembly as well as access to power and positions in
a future United Front-dominated government. Karzai,
meanwhile, uses delivery of government services as a
political lever, and awards sinecures to party leaders who
refrain from criticizing him.

5. (SBU) Politics within the Hazara ethnic group (REF B) are
a case study of Afghanistan's evolving political landscape.
Prior to 2001, Hazaras relied heavily on the Wahdat party as
a bulwark against the Taliban. Since the Taliban, however,
ambitious Hazara leaders have established their own parties.
Two chief Wahdat leaders, Haji Mohammad Mohaqqeq and Second
Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili, often fair-weather
friends during the anti-Soviet jihad, created their own
branches of Wahdat. Other political aspirants, meanwhile,
took advantage of Wahdat's fragmentation to assert their
authority. Ustad Mohammad Akbari established a new wing of
Wahdat and Sayed Mustafa Kazemi (who was killed in the
November 6, 2007 Baghlan sugar factory bombing) founded a new
Hazara political faction, the National Power Party. Karzai
and the United Front competed to pull these four leaders'
parties into their orbits. The United Front, allegedly close
to Iran, approached Akbari and Kazimi, also rumored to retain

KABUL 00000688 002 OF 002


ties to Iran. Khalili and Mohaqqeq, who claim, perhaps to
curry favor with us, to have broken with Iran, sought a
strong ally to compete with Akbari and Kazimi, and sided with
Karzai.

Different Groups, Different Means of Outreach
---------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The United Front bloc operates politically even
though it has not officially registered as a party with the
Minister of Justice. Sayed Jawad Hossaini, leader of the
Young Islamic Party of Afghanistan, founded in 2002,
explained his party's recruitment by the United Front.
Hossaini said he refused several entreaties to join the
United Front in 2007, but ultimately decided to accept in
early 2008. He based his decision on the need to join a
larger group in order to have any voice in government. The
United Front also offered him a seat on its controlling
leadership council. Hossaini added he does not agree with
some United Front positions, such as support for the Amnesty
law, but nonetheless felt it politically advantageous to join
the group.

7. (SBU) President Karzai, who does not have a party and has
rejected several parties' solicitations, still trades in
offers of government positions, sinecures and services in
exchange for political support or acquiescence. Fatema
Nazeri, a Hazara member of parliament from Kabul, explained
her fledgling party's affiliation to Karzai. At her first
political event, Nazeri staged a protest against the
government because her supporters' neighborhood lacked
electricity. Karzai responded, quickly offering electricity,
but apparently at a price. Despite her initial position in
opposition to the government, Nazeri explained she has since
become close to Farouk Wardak, Karzai's political fixer.
Nazeri implied she bartered political support for electricity.

The Disorganized but Fertile Middle
-----------------------------------

8. (SBU) Parties unwilling to choose a side in this ongoing
duel form a strong democratic current in Afghan politics, but
complain they have no political voice or financial means.
These are new parties run by reformers, most of whom left
Afghanistan during the wars, some of whom stayed to run NGOs
and schools. Their leaders abhor Afghanistan's tribal
politics, shun its warlords, and complain that Iran,
Pakistan, and Russia are meddling in domestic politics.
Though reformers share these complaints, they remain unable
to swallow their differences and unite. Their reluctance to
work together prevents them from building a political bloc
that could offer Afghans an alternative to the United Front
or President Karzai. Until reformers can cooperate to the
degree necessary to win real political power, however,
Afghans will likely gravitate towards one of the two big
players.
WOOD

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