Cablegate: Afghanistan: President Karzai Not Confident On
DE RUEHLO #2964/01 3331546
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281546Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0517
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 002964
DEPT FOR EUR/WE AND SCA/A
EO 12958 DECL: 11/28/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, MARR, PTER, AF, UK
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN: PRESIDENT KARZAI NOT CONFIDENT ON
ELECTIONS; CLAIMS FINANCIAL RESERVES “BEST IN WORLD”
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Greg Berry for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).
1. (C/NF) Summary: During a November 25 meeting in Kabul, Afghan President Karzai told FS Miliband that it would be difficult or impossible to hold a credible Presidential election. He said that Afghanistan’s USD 13.4b of reserves, were the &best in the world.” Miliband commented to Karzai that, after seven years, it was important to offer a perspective on how all expected the conflict to end. Reconciliation, subject to strict conditions, would obviously be part of that. Karzai had had a good talk with Pakistan President Zardari November 24 and was looking forward to him paying a state visit in December. He was concerned that the failure to act quickly on police issues had undermined the trust which the Afghan people had in their government and in the international community. Miliband noted that the UK was determined to work with Helmand Governor Mangal, and to give him support in engaging with the tribes. He emphasized the need to maximize the advantages which the arrival of more U.S. troops would bring. End Summary
2. (C/NF) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Miliband saw Karzai for about an hour in Kabul on November 25, with Foreign Minister Spanta, National Security Advisor Rassoul , Chief of Staff Daudzai, and Spokesperson Hamidzada present on the Afghan side. UK Ambassador Cowper-Coles joined Miliband.
3. (C/NF) Karzai told Miliband that it would be difficult or impossible to hold a credible Presidential election, not just in Helmand, but also in the provinces of Zabul, Farah, Kandahar and Ghazni. Although Zabul was small, in many ways it was as difficult as Helmand. That made a spring date proposed by the Parliament impossible. Karzai was confident that early agreement on a date would be reached.
4. (C/NF) Karzai related to Miliband that President-elect Obama had been “very supportive, very committed8 during their telephone conversation the previous week. He said Obama had promised to send a team to Afghanistan soon after the inauguration. Karzai noted that his government was preparing three papers for the U.S. and the international community on security, governance, and economic issues. The security paper had already been sent to the U.S. It covered civilian casualties, and ending house searches and arbitrary arrests of Afghans by coalition forces. Karzai instructed Rassoul to see that the paper was also sent to &NATO headquarters8.
5. (C/NF) Karzai told Miliband that the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) were in the course of preparing a paper which would call for an end to parallel structures. He said that Afghanistan’s USD 13.4b of reserves were the &best in the world8. The paper on economic issues would be for the Americans alone and would deal with some of the abuses to which their aid was subject. In particular, Afghanistan wanted to end the way in which the Americans sub-contracted major parts of their aid program to “doubtful contractors.” He was also concerned that many of the private security companies were little more than “criminal organizations.” The same applied to some of the transport companies used by the U.S.; it had become apparent to Karzai that the transport companies were responsible for much of the insecurity on the highways, in order to extract higher fees and insurance payments from the Americans.
6. (C/NF) Miliband commented to Karzai that, after seven years, it was important to offer a perspective on how all expected the conflict to end. Reconciliation, subject to strict conditions, would obviously be part of that. Karzai agreed, saying that he had consulted &the whole Afghan people,8 and they were all in favor of reconciliation. They wanted to “bring over the good guys, while excluding the bad guys.” Karzai realizes that the U.S., Russia and Iran had doubts about reconciliation, but this was something that the Afghan people wanted, and which he was bound to press ahead
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7. (C/NF) Miliband welcomed the warm relations between Karzai and Zardari, and spoke of the need to extend that relationship into other areas, and systemize it. It would be important to underpin contacts at the highest level with a clear work plan, and timeframe, for practical contacts at other levels. The Pakistanis were now fighting the Taleban, Miliband continued, and needed to be encouraged and supported in this. The UK stood ready to help in any way it could with the Af/Pak relationship. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that Karzai welcomed all this. He had had a good talk with Zardari November 24 and was looking forward to him paying a state visit in December. Karzai opined that Pakistan wanted to cooperate with Afghanistan, without the Americans being involved. Spanta explained that there were three levels to Af/Pak cooperation: bilateral, trilateral and multilateral. Miliband added that Zardari seemed genuinely committed to tackling terrorism, and to working with Afghanistan, and seemed gradually to be extending his control over other parts of the Pakistani state, including the military. Karzai expressed skepticism about how far Zardari,s writ yet ran, but said that he hoped the UK would get involved energetically in supporting Af/Pak cooperation.
AFGHAN INTERNAL ISSUES
8. (C/NF) Miliband welcomed Interior Minister Atmar,s appointment , and said that the UK would give him “every support, “ which Karzai welcomed, noting that he had given Atmar a &blank check8 to deal with corruption. His only advice to Atmar had been to maintain the ethnic balance in the Interior Ministry. Miliband also welcomed the dismissal, for corruption, of the Transport Minister. Karzai said that he had had no option, but it had been a “regrettable step.”
9. (C/NF) Miliband noted recent improvements in the ANA, and the fact that the units in Helmand had reached “Capability Milestone One,” but progress on the ANA had not been matched by progress on policing. Karzai agreed, saying that the failure to reform the Afghan Police (ANP) had been the fault of “Afghanistan’s friends.” Karzai underlined that the international community had at last realized what needed to be done on the police, and said he was concerned that the failure to act quickly had undermined the trust which the Afghan people had in their government and in the international community.
10. (C/NF) Karzai said that political outreach needed to start at village level, and extend through the district and provincial levels. Communities needed to be re-empowered, in the name of the war on terror. Those communities had been damaged by the Soviet invasion, and by radicalization, much of it paid for by the West. The IDLG was now trying to address this. Karzai added that he had replaced all but five or six governors. He was also busy signing new appointments of district governors. Miliband noted that the UK had agreed to support the Afghan Social Outreach Program in three districts in Helmand. Karzai said that he was a “greedy man” in respect to Helmand; he wanted the whole province to benefit. Miliband added that the UK was determined to work with Helmand Governor Mangal, and to give him support in engaging with the tribes. He emphasized the need to maximize the advantages which the arrival of more U.S. troops would bring.
11. (C/NF) Karzai emphasized that more U.S. troops were not the answer. He hoped the Americans would consult the Afghan Government before sending more troops. Karzai said that the U.S. had failed to send the troops for which Karzai had asked in 2002, but now it might be too late. He hoped the ANA and coalition forces would cooperate more closely, and that the increase in the ANA could be delivered much sooner than 2012. The ground in the east was well covered, but there were not enough troops in other parts of the country. According to Karzai, the Afghan population did not want more foreign troops at this stage.
12. (C/NF) Miliband ended the meeting by underlining that
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the UK public needed reassuring about the “Afghanistan project.” Karzai,s own prestige in Britain meant that he was uniquely well placed to do this. Miliband hoped therefore that Karzai would consider writing an open letter to the British people. Cowper-Coles promised to follow up on this with Karzai,s spokesman.
SOUTH WITH SPANTA
13. (C/NF) After the meeting with Karzai, Miliband and Spanta flew to Camp Bastion. During the flight Spanta emphasized to Miliband the need to address the suspicions which the Afghan people still had of Britain. He also lobbied for the UK to do more with ethnic groups other than Pashtuns (Comment: Spanta is a Tajik. End comment). Spanta suggested that the UK should engage with the universities in Heart and Mazar-e-Sharif, and have a much higher profile among Tajiks. Britain was suspected among many in Afghanistan of having a pro-Pashtun policy. Spanta also argued for Britain to do more to help restore the electricity supply to Kabul. Minister of Energy Ismael Khan needed USD 42m to address Kabul,s energy problems.
14. (C/NF) Miliband and Spanta carried out three engagements in Helmand: a visit to Garmsir, to review progress since its liberation from the Taleban earlier in the year; a visit to Lashkar Gah, to meet the Governor Mangal and other provincial notables; and a visit to the ANA training camp at Camp Shorabak, adjacent to Camp Bastion.
15. (C/NF) In Garmsir, Miliband was received by the District Chief, Abdullah Jan, and gained a variety of insights into &good enough8 governance, Afghan-style. A large number of local elders turned out, at virtually no notice, and then accompanied Miliband and Spanta on a walkabout through the bazaar, during which Miliband bought locally-produced pomegranates. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, none of this would have been possible only a few months ago and is a reflection of the improving security situation. Miliband and Spanta also reviewed and met troops of the ANA, and of the Queen,s Dragoon Guards and 1 Rifles, the latter the lead unit for mentoring the ANA in Helmand.
16. (C/NF) In Lashkar Gah, Miliband assured Mangal of continuing UK support. Mangal spoke of his many achievements, and expressed gratitude for support from HMG. During a joint press conference, Spanta voiced strong support for Mangal, which XXXXXXXXXXXX considers a significant sign of Karzai’s personal stake in seeing Spanta succeed in Helmand.
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