Cablegate: Panjshir Province: Good Security and Governance;
DE RUEHBUL #1575/01 1761201
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241201Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4485
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN 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 001575
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
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER AF
SUBJECT: PANJSHIR PROVINCE: GOOD SECURITY AND GOVERNANCE;
DEVELOPMENT ONGOING, BUT COULD BE ACCELERATED
REF: Kabul 86
KABUL 00001575 001.5 OF 002
1. (SBU) Summary: Panjshir remains one of Afghanistan's safest
provinces. The Governor speaks out strongly against corruption and
has taken action to avoid even the hint of impropriety, but the
Provincial Council is largely in the Governor's shadow. Development
and reconstruction is ongoing with a focus on electricity,
agriculture and roads.
Security Remains Good
2. (SBU) In 2008, the security situation in Panjshir has been
disturbed by a few minor incidents. In March, a small explosive
device damaged a police checkpoint in Dara district. Two abandoned
rockets of amateur quality were found pointed at the PRT in May.
Neither incident has been explained, and investigations are ongoing.
In May, the executive director of Panjshir's hospital (which is run
by Emergency, an Italian NGO) barely escaped an armed robbery
attempt in Parwan province while driving his car from Kabul back to
Panjshir. The assailants have not been apprehended. On the night
of June 14, two rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire were
directed at the PRT's communications site in Bazarak from a
ridgeline approximately two-thirds of a mile away across the
Panjshir river. The assailants did not hit the communications site.
An investigation into the attack is ongoing.
3. (U) The Panjshiri people, through their alertness to anything out
of the ordinary, remain the key to security. Panjshir is an
ethnically homogenous Tajik enclave and extremely rural. It is
geographically a cul-de-sac; anyone entering or leaving the Panjshir
valley must pass through the manned checkpoint at the "Lion's Gate."
Provinces with active insurgencies, including Baghlan, Nuristan,
Laghman and Kapisa, share mountainous borders with Panjshir. The
Panjshiri security forces' primary concern is guarding these
mountainous borders against insurgent infiltration.
4. (SBU) Amrullah Saleh, the national director of the National
Directorate of Security, is a prominent Panjshiri and regularly
visits the province. Focused District Development (FDD) and rank
reform efforts (e.g., chiefs failing proficiency examinations) have
reshuffled some district chiefs of police and reduced some district
police officer numbers to give sufficient resources to less secure
provinces. Panjshir districts have not yet been selected for FDD.
The Governor and UNAMA have asked the MOI to restore the ANP
personnel, but overall realignment goals and the relative security
in Panjshir have precluded granting this request. Crime levels
remain relatively low in the province, with most cases involving
disputes between known parties.
5. (SBU) Disbandment of Illegally Armed Groups (DIAG) has resumed in
Panjshir under the Governor's leadership. UNAMA and Afghan National
Army (ANA) representatives assigned to DIAG in Panjshir say the
program is on track. The Governor called for weekly DIAG meetings
and tasked Anaba to be the first district. UNAMA has recommended
that Anaba be designated a "Peace District", qualifying it for award
projects under DIAG. Upon its eventual designation, UNAMA would
prefer that award projects be funneled through the Governor's
office, and not through the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and
Development (MRRD). MRRD in Panjshir is slow in implementing
projects, which could discourage other districts from following
6. (U) Panjshir remains poppy free, but there are unconfirmed
reports of an increase in hashish cultivation in Khenj district.
There has been no increase in the small-to-moderate scale of drug
trafficking through the province.
Governance: Strong and Non-corrupt Governor
7. (SBU) Governor Haji Bahlol Bahij is responsible for good
governance in Panjshir. His anti-corruption stance has hardened.
Recently, the PRT awarded a tender for the construction of a bridge
in Rokha district to a contractor who was the Governor's
brother-in-law, unbeknownst to the PRT. Despite repeated PRT
assurances that it awarded the contract according to its standard
best-value decision matrix, the Governor was adamant that the
contract be re-bid to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and
he pressured his brother-in-law to withdraw from the contract.
KABUL 00001575 002.2 OF 002
8. (SBU) Governor Bahlol has sought the removal of incompetent
provincial ministry officials in the Ministries of Women's Affairs
and Public Works, but has been unable to get the authorities in
Kabul to act. He calls in contractors whom he suspects of skimming
and/or doing shoddy work to account for their performance. During
Provincial Development Council (PDC) meetings, Governor Bahlol asks
for updates and bluntly chides non-performers. Relations between
the Governor and the Provincial Council (PC) are cordial and have
improved since the election of a new chairperson. However, the PC
does not challenge the Governor's preeminence. The PC is searching
for an effective niche beyond being conveyors of assistance requests
from Panjshiri residents.
9. (U) The greatest challenge facing governance in Panjshir is the
scarcity of talented administrators as talented Panjshiris move to
Kabul in search of opportunity. The suspicious attitude of the
locals toward outsiders and the province's poverty make it difficult
to attract non-Panjshiris to the valley. The schools are of such
poor quality that the Governor relocated his family to Kabul to get
better education for his children. Ministers rarely visit the
Panjshir; in fact, no IRoA minister has visited since Education
Minister Atmar came for the inauguration of the Panjshir Teacher
Training College one year ago. When it is difficult to get the
attention of ministries, the Panjshiris turn to the network of
influential Panjshiris in Kabul to get things done, which does
nothing to build the government's capacity to provide services.
Development: Roads, Power, and Fruit Trees
10. (U) Panjshir authorities' development priorities are roads and
power. Education and agriculture are also high priorities. The
biggest obstacle to implementation of these development priorities
is the lack of coordination, information and capable administration.
Daqiq, formerly the line-director for the Ministry of Economics and
now the administrative executive and Independent Directorate for
Local Governance (IDLG) liaison in the Governor's office, acts as
Panjshir's primary development coordinator. He keeps track of
provincial project lists and compiles the Afghan National
Development Strategy (ANDS) five-year plan for Panjshir, the
Provincial Development Plan, and the Counter-Narcotics Trust
Fund/Good Performers Initiative funds.
11. (U) Panjshir's principal economic activity continues to be
agriculture and, in particular, subsistence cultivation of small
wheat plots. Panjshiri officials, most notably Hashmetullah Inyat,
the capable new line-director for the Agriculture Ministry, are
encouraging farmers to switch from subsistence wheat crops to
higher-value horticulture. The bulk of the Good Performer
Initiative funds awarded to Panjshir will purchase fruit trees and
greenhouses. The value-adding step from fruit-harvesting to
fruit-processing is also seen as a viable economic development
possibility for the near- to medium-term. Agricultural officials
want to improve animal husbandry through veterinarian services.
Although previous international community investments in veterinary
facilities have lapsed, the province is now restarting its efforts.
Included in these efforts are women's poultry projects, while
aquaculture (fish farming) is also being studied for the first time.
12. (SBU) The expenditure of CERP funds in Panjshir has risen every
year since the PRT was established, including some USD 11 million
for two major extensions of the paved road, and Afghanistan's first
electricity-generating wind farm. On a smaller scale, the PRT's
engineers and civil-affairs teams, along with USDA and USAID, are
increasingly lashed up with the line-directors, National Solidarity
Program staff, and NGO implementers. Japanese and Polish funding
for development projects has also come to the valley in 2008 for the