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Cablegate: Paktia Province: Improving Security Situation, Major

VZCZCXRO0537
RR RUEHBW RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1256/01 1430709
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220709Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4056
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 001256

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS, EUR/RPM
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AF
SUBJECT: PAKTIA PROVINCE: IMPROVING SECURITY SITUATION, MAJOR
DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS AND A POPULAR GOVERNOR

Security
--------
1. (SBU) From January through the end of May 2008, the security
situation in most of Paktia province has been relatively calm, with
the possible exception of the Zadran Arc districts of Gerdai Serai,
Shwak, and Wasi Zadran on the border with Khost province, and Zurmat
district bordering Ghazni, Logar, and Paktika provinces. During the
first three months of the year, Paktia experienced typically harsh
winter weather, with several feet of snow and constant
below-freezing temperatures in many districts. Predictably, the
enemy abandoned most of the province during those months and
reportedly waited out the winter on the Pakistani side of the
border. There were very few IED, mortar, or indirect fire incidents
against coalition forces or bases during those months.

2. (SBU) As in the previous year, there were rumors that the enemy
would gear up again for a "spring offensive" once weather permitted.
Thus far, no such offensive has occurred in Paktia. Although
sporadic IED incidents, mortar, and indirect fire attacks continue
to occur in the Zadran Arc and in Zormat, the security situation has
improved noticeably as a result of several operations and on-going
presence by coalition forces in conjunction with the Afghan National
Security Forces and civilian authorities. Though bringing security
and governance to Zormat is a long-term project, combined efforts
since late last year by the maneuver battalion, Afghan army, Afghan
police, PRT civil affairs, and Governor Hamdard's administration
have brought some level of peace to that district. The remaining
nine districts in Paktia enjoy relative peace, including districts
like Jaji, Chamkani and Patan bordering Pakistan. This stable
environment is due in large part to the effectiveness of the tribes
in providing governance and rule of law to their constituents.

Development
-----------
3. (SBU) Paktia is an agricultural economy based on small family
plots and small-animal herding, but it is incapable of producing
enough foodstuffs to feed its own population. During most of the
year, it must import significant amounts of wheat, rice and
vegetables from Pakistan. During the harsh winter, the economy is
virtually paralyzed, with farmers waiting for the snow melt to begin
their farming cycle. This winter experienced a smaller than normal
snowfall, causing agricultural officials to predict lower yields of
traditional wheat, potato, garden vegetable and fruit crops. The
expected reduced agricultural yields combined with the continuing
high prices of staple food items from Pakistan is likely to cause
real hardship for the population, especially those in remote
districts, in the second half of the year.

4. (SBU) Two major projects on the horizon should significantly
improve the living conditions of many Paktia residents in the next
two years. Work on the USAID-funded road from Khost to Gardez
through the Khost-Gardez pass will begin soon, with an anticipated
completion date of late 2009. The road will make the city of Gardez
a major commercial hub for the Loya Paktia region and should improve
the agricultural economy of the Zadran Arc districts. The
seven-million dollar, USAID-funded Paktia provincial hospital, to be
completed by 2009, will provide the province with a high level of
medical care and should reduce mortality rates among newborns and
children and improve women's health care.

Governance
----------
5. (SBU) Tribal elders, local political leaders and provincial
residents welcomed the removal in January 2008 of highly unpopular
Paktia Governor Rahmat and his replacement by respected Governor
Hamdard in March. The contrast in styles between Rahmat and Hamdard
could not have been greater. Rahmat, a former communist
apparatchik, often berated and threatened tribal elders at shuras.
Hamdard, a Pashtun and former mujaheedin commander, treats elders
and religious leaders with respect, is accessible to them, and is
reportedly very generous with his own money in helping people in
need. Hamdard is relentlessly lobbying the central government and
NGOs to bring funding for infrastructure and social projects to
Paktia.

6. (SBU) Hamdard has excellent relations with the provincial council
(PC) and is supportive of efforts to strengthen the role of the PC.
The Paktia PC continues to drive the provincial development plan

KABUL 00001256 002 OF 002


(PDP), performing most of the PDP groundwork. Paktia's chief
prosecutor and chief justice, both good PRT contacts, are now
working with Governor Hamdard in extending rule of law to the
districts. The one negative note continues to be the majority of
ministry line officers, most of whom are ill-educated, and, in some
cases appear disinterested in performing their jobs. The PRT is
working with key line directors to try to upgrade their skills and
motivational level.

WOOD

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