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Cablegate: Nangarhar Political Landscape: The Personalities

VZCZCXRO0864
RR RUEHBW RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1263/01 1431245
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221245Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4064
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
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 001263

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: NANGARHAR POLITICAL LANDSCAPE: THE PERSONALITIES

REF: Kabul 175

1. (SBU) Nangarhar's political scene is dominated by a handful of
individuals. Personal loyalty and tribal affiliations are often
more important that competence or qualifications in determining who
has influence in the province.

Gul Agha Sherzai - Governor
---------------------------
2. (SBU) Governor since 2004, Sherzai is the dominant player in
Nangarhar politics, often ruling through force of personality. He
has aspirations for national leadership and regards himself as a
viable presidential candidate. A large man with a commanding
presence, he often physically intimidates his rivals. He is a poor
listener who always tries to dominate the conversation. A weak
administrator, Sherzai represents the epitome of a strong Pashtun
leader, balancing tribes and loyalty networks against each other to
enhance his position. He generously distributes financial support
to different groups -- especially the elders of the province,
journalists, parliamentarians, and provincial council members -- to
secure their support. He is also the chief elder of the Barakzai
tribe in Kandahar, which has a traditionally higher status than
President Karzai's Popalzai tribe.

3. (SBU) Sherzai approaches governing more as a commander-in-chief
than as a governor. Although he formerly was a powerful
Mahz-e-Milli commander in southern Afghanistan, party affiliation is
a minor component of his power. Nonetheless, his Jihadi credentials
are key to his influence. Upon his arrival in Nangarhar, he
immediately established his supremacy by challenging the local
commanders to stand up to him. He takes full advantage of both his
government post and the support of central government figures to
extend his control. His main base of Nangarhar support is among the
Mohmand tribe, with some support among the Shinwaris. He has the
least support among the Khogyanis, primarily because he has
dismissed several prominent Khogyanis from government posts since
arriving in Nangarhar.

4. (SBU) Sherzai also fully exploits financial opportunities
available to him as the governor of a province with the major
highway linking Kabul and Islamabad. Although most Nangarhar
residents recognize that Sherzai illegally collects revenues, they
credit him with using at least a portion of that money to
reconstruct Nangarhar. In addition, he makes a show of his support
for the central government and the Coalition. He cultivates good
relations with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), Coalition
commanders, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan
(UNAMA) and the rest of the international community. He sometimes
exploits these relationships to his own advantage, threatening his
rivals that he can turn the Coalition against them.

Fazal Hadi Muslimyar - Provincial Council Chairman
--------------------------------------------- -----
5. (SBU) Muslimyar is a young, dynamic leader on the rise. He comes
from Chaparhar District in central Nangarhar and is a member of the
Dawlatzai Tribe. His relationship with President Karzai is
reportedly close and growing closer, and he is rumored to be in line
to manage Karzai's reelection campaign in the eastern region. He is
the protege of the late Abdul Halim Malingyar, who was a powerful
Jihadi commander from southe

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