Cablegate: Abdullah Highlights Decentralization Platform In
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P 231600Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9689
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001647
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AF
SUBJECT: ABDULLAH HIGHLIGHTS DECENTRALIZATION PLATFORM IN
PRESS CONFERENCE WITH AMBASSADOR
REF: KABUL 1590
1. (U) The Ambassador continued his public engagement with
opposition presidential candidates with a joint press
appearance alongside Abdullah Abdullah on June 21. During
the event, covered widely by Afghan and international media,
Abdullah highlighted his proposals to decentralize the
government and promote a switch to a parliamentary system and
elected governors. Abdullah, like Ashraf Ghani in an earlier
press conference with the Ambassador (reftel), challenged
Karzai to a public debate on the issues. Abdullah said he
was grateful for President Obama's statement on the US
impartiality in the election and looked forward to engaging
Afghan voters with his platform during the campaign.
2. (U) The Ambassador told journalists he wanted to
demonstrate US impartiality and commitment to credible,
secure, and inclusive elections. The US neither supported
nor opposed any one presidential candidate. Moreover, this
year's election was an opportunity for Afghan voters to give
the government a "report card" on its past five years, and
for candidates to vigorously debate the issues and offer
solutions to problems that most concern Afghans. The
Ambassador's remarks, as prepared, follow in para 6.
3. (U) Journalists quizzed Abdullah on his ties to the United
Front opposition coalition of prominent mujahideen leaders.
Abdullah said he was an "independent candidate," running with
the support of the UF and other political groups. Abdullah
downplayed the results of a recent International Republican
Institute poll showing Abdullah with single-digit support for
his campaign. Abdullah instead pointed to the poll's
findings that Afghans were disappointed in the government's
performance in several areas, particularly fighting
corruption. "This shows the people want change, and that
they are upset Karzai has taken us from a good situation to a
bad one," he said.
4. (U) During a private conversation before the press
conference, Abdullah told the Ambassador he expected Karzai
to increase the aggressiveness of his campaign against the
leading candidates as Karzai becomes more "worried" about his
own vulnerability. Abdullah requested more attention to
government officials' alleged interference in the campaign.
Separate from the election politics, Abdullah told the
Ambassador he was concerned with deteriorating security in
Kunduz and Baghlan, hopeful for better relations with
Pakistan, and advised caution on managing Afghan public
perceptions of US plans to increase troop deployments in
Afghanistan. The Ambassador urged Abdullah to focus his
energy on bringing his ideas for the future of the government
to the people and to give the US and international community
specific requests on what assistance could be provided to
opposition campaigns to help create a fair and transparent
5. (SBU) Later that evening following the press conference,
Foreign Minister Spanta called the Ambassador to express his
objection to the media events. Spanta, almost certainly
calling on Karzai's behalf, said the events constituted
interference in the campaign. The Ambassador replied that he
had accepted the candidates' invitations to appear at the
events, and had simply reiterated President Obama's statement
on the United States' impartiality in the elections.
6. (U) Begin Ambassador Eikenberry's remarks, as prepared:
I am pleased to be here today with Dr. Abdullah, one of
Afghanistan's most important political leaders. I am seeing
Dr. Abdullah today as I did Dr. Ghani yesterday, as I seek -
as US Ambassador - to meet with Afghanistan's presidential
candidates to begin a political discussion.
In the coming days and weeks I will meet the presidential
candidates in forums like this and others, to encourage a
productive and substantive political debate. It will be a
debate, I hope, that will energize the electorate and lead to
a national discussion on the future course for your country.
A national discussion like this is not only in your national
interest, it is in the US national interest. Our two
countries will be partners over the long-term and we faces
challenges both in the immediate and beyond. The United
States wishes to learn about the vision of those who may lead
your country over the next five years. I began that
conversation with Dr. Ghani yesterday, and I will continue it
today with Dr. Abdullah, and plan to have that discussion
with others in the coming days and weeks.
If Dr. Abdullah and others would indulge me, I would like to
make some brief and general remarks on the US view and
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approach to the upcoming elections here.
As President Obama has said, each nation gives life to
democracy in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its
people. The United States does not support or oppose any
particular presidential or provincial council candidate.
Instead, we support the right of the people of Afghanistan to
choose their own leaders. The US seeks an enduring
partnership with the Afghan people, not with any particular
This is an important time for Afghanistan, the first time
you, the Afghan people, will run your elections.
Afghanistan's first election five years ago was about
establishing the state and government of the country. This
second election this year is about the future of the
government. The election is a chance for the people to give
the government a report card on its performance over the last
five years. It is a chance for all candidates to discuss
their vision for the country's future.
The US is committed to working toward fair and transparent
elections, and a debate of ideas. The international
community, especially the US, is working hard to ensure these
critical pieces during the election season.
There are excellent mechanisms in place to help ensure the
quality of this election, including the Independent Election
Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission. The US and
international community stand ready to assist should there be
any shortcomings. We are interested in helping to ensure
fair access to the media and the opportunity for candidates
to travel to the provinces to meet voters.
We are certain the Afghan people will expect and will want
and should have a debate on policy issues. People should
make their choices based on the issues, not on political
deals or non-policy commitments.
We want to see the candidates' thoughts on security, on ANA
and ANP reform. We want to see the candidates' positions on
how to improve poor governance, since poor governance causes
We look to the Afghan voters to hold the candidates to
Finally, the US looks forward to a substantive debate. We
will look to the candidates and the voters to determine the
way forward for your country, and the way forward in your
country's partnership with the United States.