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Cablegate: Initial Phase of Voter Registration Faces Tenuous Security

VZCZCXRO8676
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2708/01 2791112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051112Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5727
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002708

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DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICENT

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PREL PTER MASS AF

SUBJECT: Initial Phase of Voter Registration Faces Tenuous Security
Situation

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: With the commencement of voter registration just
one day away - Oct.6, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) is
struggling to address a number of issues that illustrate the fragile
and fluid security situation that could undermine the registration
process in some areas. The IEC has recognized the need for a
Command and Control Center to coordinate security support, promote
quick response and provide broad situational awareness. The IEC is
also exploring options for air transport of materials to some
areas.

Attack on Truck Highlights Uncertain Security Environment
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) At a September 28 security meeting, Dr. Daoud Ali Najafi,
the IEC Chief Electoral Officer, reported a September 27 attack on a
truck carrying voter registration materials. Najafi alleged "local
Taliban" attacked the truck in Gul Sala, Chapa Dara district, Kunar
province. It was traveling without an Afghan National Police (ANP)
escort to Nuristan to deliver 25 registration material kits for
50,000 voters. The truck was detained and the materials burned.
The truck and driver were not harmed and tribal elders reportedly
negotiated their release.

3. (SBU) Specific details of this incident remain unconfirmed and
some reports are contradictory - including whether or not an ANP
escort was requested. Although this is the first attack on a truck
delivering registration materials, drivers in a number of areas have
previously refused to transport materials without an ANP escort out
of concerns for themselves and their families. Many have reportedly
received death threats.

Poor Coordination Hinders VR Process
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Faulty communication and coordination between IEC and the
Ministry of Interior (MOI) also plague the process and undermine
coordination on security issues. For example, representatives from
MOD, NDS, and ISAF attended the Sept. 28 security meeting, but the
MOI representative was notably absent. The IEC is operating in an
accelerated mode due to the pressures of preparing for the Oct. 6
opening of the VR process, resulting in last minute or ill-prepared
requests to the MOI. MOI also shares responsibility for the current
situation through its prior unresponsiveness to IEC requests and
failure to demonstrate consistent commitment to coordination on VR
preparations. Considerable efforts by the international community
are ongoing to promote improved coordination, support capacity
building and keep the process on track.

IEC Recognizes the Need for Command and Control Center
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (SBU) A functioning IEC operations center staffed by experienced
personnel might have staved off this particular security incident by
coordinating security and logistical support for the registration
process and serving as a central communications point, including a
direct communication link with MOI. The international community
(IC) has long stressed the importance of establishing such a Command
and Control Center, but the IEC has not given this priority
attention. The IEC also has a growing awareness of its own security
vulnerabilities; credible threats have been made against the IEC
compound and additional steps are underway bye the IEC and IC
stakeholders to address those threats and implement additional
safeguards. The IEC now recognizes the importance of establishing a
Command and Control Center. There is not yet a timeline for
establishing this Control Center or a process for identifying
trained staff, but swift implementation is key and the IC will
support this effort as much as possible.

IEC Submits Last-Minute Requests for Air Transport
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) Dr. Najafi predicts the security situation will worsen with
the opening of the voter registration, especially in certain

KABUL 00002708 002 OF 002


insecure provinces such as Ghazni, Wardak, Kunar, Logar, and
Nuristan where Provincial Election and District Field Officers have
resigned after receiving death threats from anti-government
elements. The IEC is considering various options for the secure
transport of registration materials - particularly the use of air
assets.

DELL

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