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Cablegate: Prt Mehtar Lam: Good Governance and Planned Development

VZCZCXYZ0011
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #1507/01 1740535
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220535Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4445
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 001507

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER ECON AF
SUBJECT: PRT MEHTAR LAM: GOOD GOVERNANCE AND PLANNED DEVELOPMENT
BODE WELL FOR LAGHMAN PROVINCE

1. (U) Summary: Governance in Laghman is improving as the Provincial
Council (PC) takes on a more assertive role. The coordinated
development strategy in "Laghman Forward" should improve the
agricultural sector. The warmer weather has brought an upswing in
insurgent activity compared to the quiet winter.

Relationship Between PC and Governor Evolves
--------------------------------------------
2. (U) Lutfullah Mashal became Laghman's governor on March 1, 2008,
replacing Mohammad Mangal who took over as governor of Helmand.
Prior to his appointment as governor, Mashal, a Pashtun, was Advisor
to the office of the National Security Council (NSC). Mashal held
several positions at the NSC to include Director of Strategic
Communication. He was also previously on the staff of the Christian
Science Monitor and served as interpreter to former U.S. Ambassador
Zalmay Khalilzad. Mashal professes his desire to "bond with the
people" of Laghman, to work closely with tribal elders, and to
extend governance to the more remote areas of Laghman. The PRT
views Mashal as an articulate and highly educated consensus builder.
He is well-connected to Kabul and uses the media to his advantage.


3. (U) Cooperation between the Laghman Provincial Council (PC) and
Governor Mashal is improving despite recent setbacks. Afghan
authorities detained two PC members, including the chairperson, for
physically assaulting members of a visiting Pakistani circus because
the PC members objected to women circus performers. Another
situation involved the arrest of the PC's deputy chairperson for his
alleged involvement in an IED incident. No charges were brought in
either incident; however, the PC refused to meet for several weeks
in protest. The PC has recently begun to accept its role in
provincial governance. Instead of looking to PRT staff during
meetings for solutions to problems, PC members now direct questions
and their constituents' concerns to the Governor and his staff.

Rule of Law: Tribal Traditions Overshadow Rule of Law
--------------------------------------------- --------
4. (U) Tribal traditions still overshadow the rule of law in many
areas of Laghman, despite Governor Mashal's support for the formal
justice sector. Many residents continue to turn to tribal elders to
solve disputes. Several of the elders' recent decisions have forced
Mashal to intercede. Of particular concern was an instance when
tribal elders ordered one family to give their six-year-old daughter
to another family as compensation. The District Administrator and
the District Chief of Police upheld the decision. Mashal interceded
and ordered the families to meet and come up with a different
solution to their dispute. Governor Mashal insists all district
officials use and conform to the rule of law when dealing with
disputes among residents, but the both the formal and informal legal
systems will continue to need help and attention before rule of law
establishes itself in Laghman.

Development: The Laghman Forward Plan
-------------------------------------
5. (U) Laghman PRT, in consultation with Governor Mashal, has
developed a multi-faceted plan called "Laghman Forward" that uses
CERP funds for both short- and long-term development projects. A
key part of the plan is the proposed construction of a government
radio station in Mehtar Lam that would reach the northern-most areas
of Laghman, bringing the government's message to inhabitants of
these remote areas and countering the insurgent propaganda that is
ever-present.

6. (U) Another significant project in Laghman Forward is the
construction of Agricultural Empowerment Centers in each of
Laghman's five districts. The Centers will have buildings for dry
and cold storage in addition to a flour mill to process wheat. The
Centers will allow Laghman farmers to process wheat in the province
and store it for use in the winter. This will save money for
farmers who traditionally sell wheat to grain merchants who process
it into flour in Pakistan. The merchants then sell the flour in
Laghman at four times the farmers' original price for the wheat. A
cold storage facility will also allow farmers to preserve other
crops for sale in winter.

Care of Returnees Continues To Be a Challenge
---------------------------------------------
7. (U) According to United Nations reports, approximately 11,700

individuals have returned to Laghman from Pakistan, with about 65
percent of those coming from the Jalozai camp. Approximately 25
percent of returning families have settled in a temporary site
designated by the provincial government in the desert near Mehtar
Lam. Many of these families are unable to return to their villages
due to tribal conflicts, the presence of insurgents, or lack of
land. UNICEF is helping to provide water, and other NGOs have
started drilling test wells for water. A mobile health clinic comes
to the site two times per week with plans to increase to three
times. USAID-sponsored agencies are distributing additional
humanitarian aid. A local tribe has complained to the PC that land
currently used by the returnees belongs to their tribe. Governor
Mashal has convened several meetings to try to resolve the dispute.


Upswing in Insurgent Activity
-----------------------------
8. (SBU) Although Laghman does not have the security problems of
more volatile provinces, security continues to be a concern. In the
past month, Laghman PRT has experienced rocket-propelled grenade and
small arms fire attacks. Information from informants led to the
discovery of three 107mm rockets aimed at the PRT. IED attacks have
decreased over the last six months; however, direct attacks (RPG,
small arms fire) have slightly increased near Highway One in
Qarghayi district. The normal upswing of insurgent activity in the
summer months may explain the insurgents' increased activity.

DELL

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