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Cablegate: Learning Lessons, Looking Ahead On Election

VZCZCXRO4383
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #3020/01 3240602
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190602Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6175
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003020

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: LEARNING LESSONS, LOOKING AHEAD ON ELECTION
SECURITY

REF: KABUL 2914

1. (SBU) Summary: As noted reftel, the Independent Election
Commission (IEC) and the Afghan security forces continue to
improve their cooperation on voter registration security. In
the wake of an attack on completed voter registration
materials in Wardak province, representatives from the IEC,
Ministry of Interior (MOI), Ministry of Defense (MOD),
National Directorate of Security (NDS) and ISAF compared
their incident logs, shared intelligence information and
analysis, reviewed missteps, and collaboratively identified
"lessons learned" for future incidents. The developing
spirit of cooperation and teamwork, as well as police pledges
to improve performance, suggest that Phases 1 and 2 of voter
registration are serving as a useful practice for the greater
security challenges ahead in the south in Phases 3 and 4.

-----------------------------------
ARMED MEN SEIZE MATERIALS IN WARDAK
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) On November 6, armed men of unknown affiliation
attacked an unscheduled convoy transferring completed
registration materials from Jalrayz district to the
provincial capital of Wardak. Cognizant of violence in the
area, IEC headquarters had planned to move the material by
air. The Jalrayz district electoral official (district field
coordinator, or DFC) decided, however, to accept the police's
written invitation urging him to join their convoy as they
departed the district. The DFC did not contact IEC
headquarters. The police and the attackers fought for over
four hours, with four attackers killed and three police
wounded. The IEC's driver and his assistant, employees of a
transport firm, were kidnapped and have not yet been
released. The attackers seized or burned data on 1,360
voters as well as blank voter registration forms.

3. (SBU) Many details of the attack remain unclear. The
security forces and the IEC agree that they cannot
conclusively determine the affiliation of the attackers; some
reports say the attackers were Taliban, some say "local
Taliban," some say Hizb-e-Islami (HIG). On November 12 Afghan
National Army Colonel Mo'men noted with exasperation that the
Ministry of Defense had produced five reports on the
incident, yet the motive of the attackers was still unknown.
The NDS on November 12 reported that its sources confirmed
that the transport driver had no connection to the Taliban,
suggesting that the common scenario of complicity between
transport drivers and their would-be attackers did not occur.
NDS also noted its sources reported no threat at the time of
the movement. The MOI has yet to determine why the police
were departing Jalrayz.

-------------------------
LEARNING LESSONS TOGETHER
-------------------------

3. (SBU) In a series of meetings, the IEC, the Afghan
security forces, ISAF, and UN technical advisors identified
together three "lessons learned" from the Wardak incident.

-- First, the greatest failure was a lack of communication
through the chains of commands. The Jelrayz DFC did not
notify the Provincial Electoral Officer (PEO) or IEC
headquarters of his decision to make an unscheduled move.
The police in Jelrayz did not notify the provincial or
regional security coordination centers of their decision to
leave the district. In turn, the Afghan National Army and
ISAF forces learned of the move only after the attack was
underway. ANA and ISAF representatives noted that their
organizations did not receive actionable information or a
specific request for assistance.

-- Second, the provincial and regional levels for all the
organizations can play an immediate role in addressing
problems, but only when officials respect the established
chain of command. In the November 6 incident, information
flowed from those involved in the incident to the various
headquarters, bypassing the levels closest to the scene and
snarling efforts to deploy more forces.

-- Third, only the IEC has authority to decide whether
materials move or not. The IEC must coordinate information
from the security agencies and communicate its plans to them.
The police and the army do not, however, have the authority

KABUL 00003020 002 OF 002


to modify or overrule the IEC's plans, as the IEC is
ultimately responsible for election materials.

4. (SBU) Separately, the IEC is taking steps to improve its
ability to respond to such incidents. It is tightening
procedures in its headquarters operations center, to create a
more useful log of events and allow better decision-making.
In current procedures for transport from the district to the
provincial center, both copies of the completed voter
registration forms move together; the IEC now is examining
advantages and disadvantages to separating the forms at the
district level and moving the two identical data sets
separately. The IEC on November 17 again pressed its request
that ISAF designate a liaison to the IEC operations center;
ISAF's initial response on November 12 was negative.

5. (SBU) The election security players on November 17
debated together how to adjust plans for the return of other
Phase 1 materials from Wardak to avoid any recurrence of the
failures of November 6. The PEO reports that materials in
four districts are under threat and should be moved to the
provincial capital and IEC headquarters as soon as possible.
The IEC is investigating all transportation options,
including requests for Afghanistan National Army Air Corps
(ANAAC) and ISAF air support.

--------------------------------------------- -
PHASES 3 AND PHASE 4 LOOK TOUGHER BUT POSSIBLE
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) Despite the greater security challenges ahead for
the troubled Phase 3 provinces of Zabul, Paktika, and Khost
(Farah, Nangarhar, and Laghman are relatively calm), and the
substantially greater challenges in Nimroz, Uruzgan, Kandahar
and Helmand for Phase 4, prospects for improved and
integrated planning and response on voter registration
security look good. The IEC on November 12 shared its
district-level threat assessments for Phases 3 and 4 with MOI
and MOD representatives. Reviewing this mixed picture, the
MOI's Colonel Almas underscored the police's commitment to
provide security to allow the IEC open and operate for thirty
days every voter registration center, from the 43 sites the
IEC has in "low threat" areas to the 9 sites it has plans for
in areas "under enemy control." Colonel Mo'men seconded this
sentiment for the MOD. He added that, unlike Phases 1 and 2,
the Army has forces in every district of these provinces,
giving it more capability and flexibility to support the
police.

WOOD

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