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Cablegate: Uruzgan Governor Promises to Take On Thriving Poppy

VZCZCXRO5685
RR RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #3026/01 3251310
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201310Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6185
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003026

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO AID FOR ASIA/SCAA
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR WILKES
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV SNAR AF

SUBJECT: URUZGAN GOVERNOR PROMISES TO TAKE ON THRIVING POPPY
INDUSTRY

1. (SBU) Summary: Uruzgan Governor Hamdam has vowed to reduce
poppy cultivation in his province by 25 percent this season. Hamdam
told the Deputy Minister of Counter Narcotics he planned to create a
comprehensive CN strategy with goals in public awareness,
alternative livelihood and eradication. Hamdam said local strongman
(and former governor) Jan Mohammad Khan and the Provincial Chief of
Police would oppose his CN plan and requested more support from the
Dutch and United States, particularly for alternative livelihoods
and eradication. Given the fact that Hamdam is on notice from the
Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) to become more
energetic or face being replaced, it is an open question whether he
will be up to the task of matching his encouraging words with
actions.

MCN Visit Prompts Change in Thinking
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The September 24 visit of Deputy Minister for Counter
Narcotics (MCN) Zafar, his team, and the Embassy's NAS Director was
clearly the catalyst for Governor Hamdam's new focus on tackling
poppy cultivation in his province. According to the 2008 UN Office
of Drug and Crime (UNODC) report, 9,929 hectares of poppy were
cultivated in Uruzgan, the fourth largest cultivation in
Afghanistan, following that of Helmand, Kandahar, and Farah. Poppy
cultivation in the province increased 7 percent over the previous
year. Insecurity in Uruzgan made governor-led eradication extremely
difficult.

3. (SBU) During the shura organized by Hamdam, Zafar underscored
the innumerable adverse effects of the drug trade, the commitment of
MCN and other ministries in Kabul to provide better support for the
provinces and the economic benefits of eradication through the
Governor-Led Eradication Program and Good Performance Initiative.
Zafar addressed the complaints expressed by Hamdam and tribal elders
that MCN did not provide enough support to the provinces, but the
Deputy Minister effectively kept the spotlight focused on the
critical role of the Governor and provincial leaders. Hamdam agreed
to accelerate the completion of his tailored proposals for CN action
in Uruzgan.

Indicators of Commitment
------------------------

4. (SBU) Since the MCN visit, Hamdam has privately admitted to
PRTOff that he has not acted aggressively on CN, but he was
determined to "gradually get tougher." In addition to the increased
pressure he feels from Kabul, Hamdam has become convinced of the
inseparable link between the ongoing insurgency and the drug trade
in Uruzgan. Moreover, Hamdam is keen on advancing his development
goals for the province by gaining access to the considerable funds
available through the Good Performance Initiative (GPI). For these
reasons, he has taken the following steps to reduce poppy
production:

-- Development of a CN Plan. Hamdam tasked his IDLG-supplied
advisor for security to coordinate the creation of a comprehensive
CN strategy for the next four years. The Governor aims to reduce
poppy cultivation in Uruzgan by 25 percent in 2009, and eliminate it
completely by 2012. In consultation with the INL-funded Counter
Narcotics Advisory Team (CNAT) assigned to Uruzgan, the provincial
authorities developed the first draft of a plan that focuses on
steps to ratchet up public awareness, alternative livelihood
programs and law enforcement and eradication. The plan still
requires some fine-tuning to make it more realistic in the near term
-- namely, it depends heavily on the immediate allocation of
financial resources and ANSF deployments from Kabul -- but it is a
step in the right direction.

-- Information Campaign. During a November 10 MCN-sponsored
workshop on eradication for governors, Hamdam stressed that public
awareness is the most important component of his approach to CN. He
explained that the rare combination of high wheat prices, low poppy
prices, possible measures taken by the Taliban to restrict the
production of poppy (to limit oversupply) and renewed popular
discontent with the drug trade created a unique opportunity this
year to steer farmers away from poppy cultivation. Taking advantage

KABUL 00003026 002 OF 002


of INL-provided funds and ISAF/OEF transportation and security,
Hamdam and provincial officials are repeating this message in
numerous shuras at the provincial and district level. On November
25, he will host a Peace Jirga involving 1,500 tribal elders and
religious leaders and will seek to secure greater popular support
for greater CN efforts. Hamdam hopes to avoid conflict with tribal
elders and farmers during the eradication season by encouraging them
to make the right choice now.

-- Alternative Livelihood. Although Hamdam is frustrated with the
level of alternative livelihood assistance he has received, he is
determined to make the best out of the situation. The Dutch
Embassy, through the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is
distributing wheat seed and fertilizer to 20,000 families throughout
the province, and despite FAO insistence that the assistance is
humanitarian in nature, Hamdam is spinning the assistance as an
alternative livelihoods program. Hamdam has instructed his Director
of Agriculture and Director of CN to solicit greater and more
explicit alternative livelihood support from the Netherlands,
Australia and U.S. Uruzgan failed to put to good use previous USAID
alternative livelihood assistance provided earlier this year, such
as the donation of 12,000 almond seedlings and 10 tractors, but
USAID is currently reviewing possible alternative livelihood
programs for the province.

-- Eradication. UNODC estimates that only 113 hectares were
eradicated in early 2008, down from 204 hectares in 2007. Hamdam
promises that this season will be different. (Hamdam claims that
last season he had convinced farmers to self-eradicate, but UNODC
surveyors so not verify self-eradication; thus, he believes the
number of eradicated fields is greater than 113.) Recognizing that
Uruzgan will not likely receive support from the Poppy Eradication
Force (PEF) this season, Hamdam hopes to use the tractors donated by
USAID to eradicate the largest concentrations of poppy in all five
districts (these have been sitting idle at his compound). He has
asked the U.S. Embassy to repair the tractors and equip them with
tines for eradication. Hamdam will attempt to hire private
contractors to operate the tractors and will call for ANSF support
(hopefully from Kabul) to provide force protection. He has agreed
to use the target eradication maps provided by the UK Embassy to
conduct the eradication operations in early 2009. (Comment: Without
the provision of more Afghan security forces, Hamdam is unlikely to
make progress on the eradication front. End Comment.)

Obstacles to Progress
---------------------

5. (SBU) Hamdam remains concerned that former governor and local
power broker Jan Mohammad Khan (JMK) will stand in the way of a more
robust Governor-led Eradication. JMK's widely speculated ties to
the drug trade and his tight grip on the Provincial Chief of Police
provide the former governor sufficient motive and means to resist
Hamdam's efforts. At a minimum, JMK's large tracts of land in
eastern Tarin Kowt are likely be overlooked during any eradication
efforts.

6. (SBU) Hamdam must reinvigorate his Counter Narcotics Working
Group (CNWG) to sustain coordinated and comprehensive action by the
relevant departments. Hamdam tends to conduct coordination meetings
on an ad hoc basis, but executing his CN strategy requires regular
and close interaction with all of the players, including the
relevant line ministry representatives, with whom he continues to
have rocky relations. As for the international community, in
addition to the Dutch CN Police attached to the PRT, the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration and Australian Federal Police recently
concluded agreements with the PRT to deploy agents to Uruzgan to
strengthen interdiction efforts. Hamdam needs to meet the
international community's increased commitment to Uruzgan's CN
efforts by dedicating more attention to the CNWG. PRTOff have
encouraged the Governor to initiate monthly CNWG meetings. If
Governor Hamdam follows through on his promises of decisive action
on counter narcotics - a definite challenge - he could go some
distance in answering the IDLG's demand that he improve his overall
performance or face replacement.

WOOD

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