Cablegate: Un Views On Situation in Afghanistan


DE RUCNDT #0553/01 1761749
O 241749Z JUN 08





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) UN DPKO U/SYG Guehenno shared a downbeat report on
his recent trip to Afghanistan and the UN perspective on the
outcome of the recent Paris Conference in a June 19 meeting
with PermReps from key coalition countries. In comparison to
his last visit in 2005, Guehenno described a sense of
"despondency and uncertainty" in Afghanistan. Although
Coalition Forces and Afghan security forces are winning
tactical battles, he argued that these accomplishments are
not adding up to strategic victory. He said the Afghan
people are exhausted from years of conflict, and "collateral
damage" and intrusive searches by Coalition Forces means
their perception of foreign troops is deteriorating, a point
of view he described as widespread, from President Karzai to
the average citizen. Guehenno said the Taliban is considered
cruel but disciplined whereas the government is perceived to
lack discipline and integrity. He stated that efforts to
build an army and a police force are progressing well, but
overall trust in state institutions has decreased. On a more
positive note, Guehenno reported tremendous support from
donors and major ISAF players for SRSG Eide, but reiterated
the familiar criticism that there is no shared "map" of which
donor is doing what where in Afghanistan, and emphasized the
need to strengthen the JCMB. He confirmed that elections are
a priority for UNAMA.

2. (SBU) In a separate meeting June 20, USUN Deputy Political
Counselor Molly Phee spoke with the UN Director of the
Electoral Assistance Division (EAD) Craig Jenness about EAD's
assessment of the upcoming elections in Afghanistan. Noting
the UN's appointment of elections adviser Margie Cook to the
UNAMA team and recent TDY elections support to the mission,
Jenness requested consultations with State, USAID and other
agencies as appropriate on the margins of an NDU conference
on the Afghan elections scheduled for late July. While
acknowledging the outstanding legal and logistical issues
that need to be tackled, Jenness praised the technical
expertise of the Afghans and recommended that the
international community manage its expectations. He noted
that it is routine for voter turnout to be lower in the
second election held after the introduction of democracy.
What may be more important, he suggested, is equable levels
of participation by all ethnic groups.

Guehenno Analyzes International Effort in Afghanistan
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (SBU) Following the Paris Conference on Afghanistan, the
Canadian PermRep invited DPKO U/SYG Guehenno for breakfast to
meet with PermReps, including Amb Khalilzad, from key
coalition countries June 19 to discuss his recent visit to
Afghanistan. Guehenno opened by comparing his latest trip
unfavorably to his last visit in 2005. He said he found a
sense of "despondency and uncertainty." He offered his
assessment that tactical military victories have not resulted
in a strategic victory. While ISAF and OEF forces clearly
take precautions to avoid undue harm to the population, the
"finer points" regarding the intent of combat operations are
not adequately explained to the population or overshadowed by
forceful entries, night patrols and other intrusive
activities. The result is a deteriorating perception of
foreign troops in Afghanistan. Guehenno said: "I did not
meet with a single person in Afghanistan who did not raise
this with me as an issue of concern." He suggested that a
solution to this growing problem is to encourage greater
participation of Afghan security forces. In discussing these
issues, Guehenno also said that there was a need to deal with
the consequences of the tension between OEF and ISAF,
explaining that NATO finds itself having to cope with the
effects of OEF operations in its areas.

4. (SBU) Turning to the government, Guehenno said efforts to
build up the Afghan army and police are going well but
overall trust in state institutions is insufficient.
Guehenno suggested that the presence of the state in the
day-to-day lives of the people remains inadequate.
Government performance is uneven, varying from ministry to
ministry and province to province. Karzai advisor Popal has
good ideas about governance, said Guehenno, but since he is
pursuing them through the Presidency rather than implementing
them through the ministries it is not clear that they will
develop operational legs. Widespread corruption has created
a perception that the government does not have discipline or
integrity, in contrast to the Taliban, who are perceived to
be cruel but disciplined. Guehenno also said that in making
appointments, Karzai is perceived to focus too much on an
individual's tribal or ethnic affiliation rather than

5. (SBU) Guehenno praised the international commitment to
Afghanistan's reconstruction. However, he stated that a
coherent vision across sectors, regions and PRTs is lacking.
There is no comprehensive "map" that provides a common
picture of the reconstruction effort -- which donor is doing
what where. He also raised the disparity in the distribution
of resources, reporting for example that one province has $40
million in available project funding while another has only
$4 million, and lamented the political signal sent when
provinces with a higher incidence of insurgent actions and
illegal narcotic activity receive more aid. Guehenno argued
that the JCMB must become the centralized coordination
mechanism if it is to be effective.

Guehenno on Afghan Elections

6. (SBU) Guehenno underscored that the upcoming elections are
a top priority for UNAMA, and explained that a number of
preparatory actions need to be taken now. The current
outstanding issue is conducting voter registration prior to
the onset of winter. He suggested that an appreciably lower
voter turnout could damage the authority of the central
government and the President. In response to a question,
Guehenno said that postponing the elections is not a real
option, as doing so would severely erode the legitimacy of
the Presidency. At the same time, the risks of an
ill-prepared election in which large portions of the
population do not participate are clear. Guehenno called for
a redoubling of efforts to facilitate successful elections.

EAD on Afghan Elections

7. (SBU) Deputy political counselor Phee met separately June
20 with EAD Director Jenness. Jenness outlined several legal
and logistical challenges, but identified possible solutions
and positively recalled the technical expertise of the
Afghans. He acknowledged that the recent decision to de-link
registration for a national identity card (civil registry)
from voter registration could cause delays in voter
registration, including the need to procure a new form,
Ramadan in September, and the onset of Afghan winter.
Jenness said a two-phase voter registration in which the
northern provinces register in the summer and the southern
provinces register in the winter might be necessary.
Referring to the ambiguous legal status of the Afghan
electoral commission, Jenness noted that any amendment of
Afghanistan's electoral law must be adopted one year prior to
the election. He also raised a concern that the current
Election Commissioner, who was appointed by Karzai, will be
perceived as favoring the President. Jenness expressed
confidence, however, that SRSG Eide and the international
community could work in partnership with the Afghan
government to tackle these matters.

8. (SBU) When apprised that Guehenno had expressed concerns
to PermReps about the impact of lower voter turnout on the
credibility of the results, Jenness explained that it is
common in new democracies for there to be a dip in voter
turnout in the second election. However, he shared
Guehenno's concern that there be equable participation levels
from Afghan's different ethnic groups, and suggested that the
international community should work to prevent such a
scenario. To that end, he recommended that EAD consult with
State, USAID and other interested agencies. He said that
UNAMA's recently appointed elections advisor will visit
Washington in late July to attend an NDU conference on the
elections, and suggested a meeting be arranged at that time.
Jenness confirmed that the UN would mobilize necessary
support for the elections, reporting that he had recently
sent a member of his staff TDY to Afghanistan to assess and

9. (SBU) Comment: Guehenno's pessimism about the situation
in Afghanistan is consistent with his generally negative
perspective about the situation there. End Comment.


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