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Cablegate: Afghan Republican Party Embraces Karzai's Agenda

VZCZCXRO2560
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2932 3091052
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041052Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6060
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 002932

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV AF
SUBJECT: AFGHAN REPUBLICAN PARTY EMBRACES KARZAI'S AGENDA

1. The Afghan Republican Party celebrated its 10-year
anniversary this week with a national conference in Kabul,
where party leaders made it clear they intend to serve among
President Karzai's most reliable supporters in next year's
election even though Karzai has said he does not intend to
form, sponsor or join a political party of his own. Although
few elected officials, if any, fully identify as Republican
Party members, the party leadership does include Karzai's
chief of policy, Sebghatullah Sanjar, as well as a handful of
former high-ranking government officials. The party has
fought for Karzai's attention against the similarly named
Republic Party and a host of independents loyal to the
president. With less than a year left before the
presidential election, the Republicans are crafting a
political message closely in tune with Karzai's policies.

2. At this week's party conference, speakers represented a
diverse cross-section of Afghan society: men, women,
traditional, Westernized, Tajik, Hazara, Pashtun, young, and
old spoke to several hundred members in a Kabul hotel banquet
room. In addition to Sanjar, speakers and others prominently
featured during the ceremonies included a Sikh, a mullah, a
former Cabinet official, and the head of the Afghan
Para-Olympic Team. Many of the speakers referenced the
ongoing Saudi Arabia-hosted reconciliation talks with the
Taliban. While other political groups have expressed
skepticism, Sanjar and others praised Karzai's efforts and
said they were confident such negotiations would only bring
in those insurgents willing to respect the Constitution.
Pictures of Karzai adorned the walls of the conference room
alongside party banners.

3. Sanjar has used his position inside the Palace and
connections with the business communities in Kabul and Herat
to build the organization of what has been a very minor
player in Afghan politics. This week's conference, attended
by more than 300 members and their families, was one of the
largest gatherings in the party's history. Party members
tell us they hope to win several seats in Parliament in the
2010 elections and convince incumbent MPs to join their
party. With the resources on display at the conference, they
should be able to make some progress toward these goals. As
a pan-ethnic, geographically diverse party, they may be ahead
of their time. Regional and ethnic blocs leftover from
mujahideen times, however, are still best positioned to
attract the most votes, even though many of those parties
have not made similar efforts to organize and prepare for the
next legislative elections.
WOOD

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