Cablegate: Karzai Urges Codel Mccain to Support Zardari And
DE RUEHBUL #3237/01 3560624
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 210624Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6473
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003237
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
EO 12958 DECL: 12/20/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, MASS, KDEM, AF, PK
SUBJECT: KARZAI URGES CODEL MCCAIN TO SUPPORT ZARDARI AND
WELCOMES INCREASE IN U.S. FORCES
Classified By: A/DCM Val Fowler for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. Accompanied by the Charge d’Affaires, Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham dined with President Karzai at the Presidential Palace December 6. Flanked by many from his cabinet, including the Foreign and Defense Ministers, Karzai urged the Senators to secure strong U.S. support for Pakistan President Zardari in his efforts to free Pakistan from extremism, noted the progress Afghanistan has made with the support of international assistance, welcomed incoming U.S. forces and described efforts to combat widespread corruption. He also stressed the toll that civilian casualties took on public support for military operations.
APPRECIATION FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT TO AFGHANISTAN
2. (C) Karzai thanked the Senators for U.S. assistance and shared his optimism regarding the future of the bilateral relationship: “Never before has a country welcomed a foreign presence so much. (Our cooperation) will be a great success.” Karzai then joked that “reconstruction is something we complain about, but inside we are very happy with it. We complain because we want more money from you.” Karzai went on to describe how small businesses have sprung up all around the country in the last four years as a result of international assistance, and how those businesses are vital to Afghanistan’s sustainability. Karzai also touched on other areas of progress, claiming that this year Afghanistan would see 50,000 students graduate from college whereas a few years ago, there were not 50,000 college graduates in the country.
PAKISTAN’S ZARDARI: A GOOD MAN TRYING TO FREE HIS COUNTRY OF EXTREMISTS
3. (C) Responding to Senator McCain’s comment that the delegation had just arrived from meetings in Islamabad, Karzai stressed the importance of U.S. support for Pakistan’s president, calling Zardari “a good man who wants to free his country from extremists.” Karzai noted that he had an excellent relationship with Zardari and felt the two had a special rapport, adding “never in 60 years of Pakistan’s history have we had such good bilateral relations.” Karzai described how, when he arrived in Istanbul for trilateral talks earlier this month, Zardari called him directly and asked to meet with him privately before their official meeting the following day. Zardari came to Karzai’s room where they chatted over dinner for hours, “covering all topics imaginable.” Returning to the issue of U.S. support for Zardari, Karzai said the Pakistani President felt “lonely, threatened and under siege.” Zardari believed he received too little support from the international community: India was still wary because of historic enmity between the two countries; Russia withheld its support because Pakistan had helped the Afghans defeat the Soviets; China disapproved of Zardari’s close relationship with the U.S.; and the Arab countries wouldn’t support him because he wasn’t “one of them.” Karzai urged the Senators: “America is the only place he can turn - help him. Give him all you can; forget his past.”
NEED TO FOCUS ON COMMUNITIES AND FIGHTING CORRUPTION
4. (C) Calling himself “a traditional Afghan,” Karzai said his government won the previous election because of the backing of the tribes, but lack of progress and growing insecurity at the local level had left many communities disillusioned and vulnerable to militants. The government needed to re-establish those ties and focus on strengthening local infrastructure. Karzai said he had raised this issue with Senator Biden when Biden suggested sending more troops and more civilians to support Afghanistan’s reconstruction and security efforts. Karzai agreed those elements were important, but told Biden that even more important was shifting the assistance focus to the community or village level and concentrating on capacity-building to bolster the traditional element of Afghan society.
5. (C) Karzai acknowledged the scope of corruption that plagues the country, saying “the more we dig (into corruption), the more scared we get.” The President told the Senators he had fired Governor Raufi of Kandahar after a three-month investigation (the same amount of time Governor Raufi was in the position following the dismissal of the
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previous governor). He also noted his recent firing of the Minister of Transport for embezzling funds linked to construction of Kabul’s new airport. Responding to the question of whether either of these men would be prosecuted, Karzai confirmed prosecutors were pursuing a case against the Minister of Transport. Karzai also tied the prevalence of widespread, but low-level corruption to the despair of many impoverished Afghans: “When someone doesn’t have hope for the future, he will steal.” On the other hand, Karzai related a story from a trip to Paktya when residents challenged him on his “negative” radio addresses: “Things are better than you say, don’t you know that?” Karzai told them he recognized the improvements but just wanted everyone to do still better.
AFGHANISTAN WELCOMES INCOMING U.S. FORCES
6. (C/NF) Karzai welcomed the incoming U.S. brigades, but took the opportunity to question the effectiveness of the British in Helmand. “Freeing Helmand from the Taliban is important: Helmand is not with us.” He then semi-seriously suggested that everyone stop taking notes, “especially my people,” and related an anecdote in which a woman from Helmand asked him to “take the British away and give us back the Americans.” He said there was a broad understanding among Afghans of the value of American forces, and that he regularly hears requests from the South to increase U.S. troop presence there. “Afghans don’t recognize NATO, they recognize America,” said Karzai. He offered the example of a villager from Uruzgan who gave the Dutch Task Force Commander a present, saying, “Take that back to Washington with you.”
KARZAI: AFGHANS WILLING TO DIE IN BATTLE BUT DO NOT UNDERSTAND CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
7. (C) Karzai raised the issue of civilian casualties, stressing the impact these deaths had on public opinion and support. “Freeing Afghanistan from terrorists is important and building institutions is important, but even more important is making sure Afghan civilians don’t suffer in the pursuit of these terrorists.” He emphasized that these incidents were “pushing our population away from us.” The Afghan people will be your best allies, he asserted, but we have to find a way to solve this. “Afghans will die on the field of battle a thousand times (fighting militants), but civilian casualties they do not understand.”
ELECTIONS: KARZAI PRAISES SENATOR McCAIN’S GRACIOUSNESS
8. (C) Karzai praised Senator McCain for what he called “a marvelous concession speech” and noted that he had called Senator McCain immediately afterward to congratulate him on the speech. Karzai added, “I hope that if (Afghanistan’s) election results go a different way next year, I will have 20 percent of the guts you showed and be able to concede as graciously as you did.”
9. (U) CODEL McCain did not have the opportunity to clear this message.