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Cablegate: Musa Qala Political Update: Mullah Salam's Leadership

VZCZCXRO3083
RR RUEHBW RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1280 1471240
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261240Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4104
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 KABUL 001280

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: MCAP MOPS PREL PGOV PTER PHUM AF
SUBJECT: MUSA QALA POLITICAL UPDATE: MULLAH SALAM'S LEADERSHIP
WAVERING

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Efforts to improve governance capacity in the
northern Helmand town of Musa Qala face mounting challenges.
District administrator Mullah Salam increasingly clashes with the
local Afghan security leadership, and area residents have publicly
expressed frustration at his leadership style. The District Shura
is demanding salaries for their service and most have returned to
Lashkar Gah. The Afghan National Police (ANP) and the Afghan
National Army (ANA) are maintaining order within the town, but the
May 17 attack on the governor's helicopter (septel) and a suicide
attack on a police checkpoint openly increased tensions between
security forces and Salam. Increased involvement from the
Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG) is needed soon
to improve the situation in Musa Qala. The district remains
important as a symbol to Helmand's Pashtuns of the Karzai
government's willingness and ability to earn their trust and their
support in the struggle against a resurgent Taliban.

Musa Qala Politics
------------------
2. (SBU) Mullah Salam continues to dominate security, governance and
development activities in Musa Qala; however, he is clerly
politically weaker than just a few months ago. His long absence in
Kabul distanced him from city residents, and his refusal to control
his private militia, which includes his son, has angered many
people. On May 20, 50 people from Shah Kariz, Salam's home village,
gathered outside Musa Qala and demonstrated against his militia,
accusing them of illegal tax collection and unlawful land seizures.
When elders presented a letter stating their grievances, Salam
refused to see them and instead sent his son. This only angered the
group and eventually ANA Colonel Riahimi stepped forward, listened
to the group and defused the situation. Salam was incensed that
Riahimi interfered in his affairs, and threatened to call the
Defense Minister to have him removed.

3. (SBU) Salam's rift with the security forces was already
aggravated after the attack on Governor Mangal's helicopter on May
17, and a suicide bombing at an ANP checkpoint the following day.
Salam held the district ANP Chief, Commander Koka, and the local
state security officials accountable for the attacks, saying they
could have done more to prevent them. Salam is convinced the
suicide attack was meant for him and insists he needs more men and
equipment for his protection. His growing interference in security
isses angers Koka and complicates UK efforts to mentor the Afghan
police and army.

IDLG Required
-------------
4. (SBU) A mounting problem is the absence of most of the Musa Qala
Shura. They are upset they are not being paid and want the IDLG to
send a representative to discuss appropriate compensation for their
services. Haji Zahir, the Shura's deputy, remains in the city and
continues to work well with the UK-led PRT's security and
stabilization officers. However, without the assistance of the
other Shura members, he is unable to coordinate development
activities and manage Salam's interaction with the public. PRT
officers in Musa Qala believe IDLG should decide on the future role
and responsibilities of the Shura and offer sufficient compensation
to bring them back to the city. The Shura would then be available
to support governance and development and to encourage Salam to
improve his relationship with the public.

5. (SBU) Salm has become more difficult to work with, and hs once
good relationship with the public is filing. The absence of the
Shura and lack of involvement by IDLG have removed important checks
on Salam's actions. He increasingly relies on his own men,
regardless of the consequences. It appears that Governor Mangal or
the IDLG will need to engage Salam and encourage him to focus on
district management and public relations.

WOOD

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