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Cablegate: Prt/Panjshir: Road Paves Way for Change

VZCZCXRO3559
OO RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #3078/01 1910637
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 100637Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1269
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//JF/UNMA//
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J3//
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUMICEA/JICCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFIUU/COMSOCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC 0087
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2679
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2823
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 6138
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 1508

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 003078

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CR, SCA/PAB, S/CT, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR BREZINSKI
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76, POLAD
TRANSPORTATION FOR DMODESITT
REL NATO/AUST/NZ/ISAF

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: ELTN PGOV ECON EAID AF
SUBJECT: PRT/PANJSHIR: Road Paves Way For Change

KABUL 00003078 001.2 OF 003


Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The new road in Panjshir, funded by USAID at
16 million USD, is making daily progress along its 47-
km stretch. The road is transforming the province -
economically, politically and socially. The change is
overwhelmingly positive; Panjshiri support of the
project is wide-spread. There is, however, popular
opinion resistance to the Double Bituminous Surface
Treatment (DBST) road surface, which the PRT is
working to address. There is, however, a perceived
downside to the change, which the PRT is working to
address. End Summary.

Economic Impact
---------------

2. (SBU) Positive: Panjshiris view the road as their
"lifeline" for commerce and transportation. As one
contact put it, "the road is the main artery of the
province, supplying it with blood." Panjshiris expect
the paved road to ease their transport of products to
market, especially produce to Kabul. Further, it will
facilitate the movement of labor. In the case of
Panjshir, that means the exodus of young men to Kabul
for work - a trend already in full swing - but also
their return on the weekends. Shopkeepers lining the
road tell us they expect more business, one reason
they have agreed without compensation to move their
storefronts back several meters.

3. (SBU) Positive: We have already seen signs of
economic development sparked by the road work. A
property dispute in one of the larger settlements on
the road, after years of stalemate, suddenly found
resolution as townspeople sought to capitalize on the
new possibilities. New residential construction is
evident. There are also several instances of private
investment - for example, a new restaurant near the
mouth of the valley. We hear talk as well of big
investments in the fields of gemstone extraction and
water bottling.

4. (SBU) Positive: Panjshir has already witnessed an
increased flow of tourists, mostly Kabulites coming
for the weekend, drawn by the fresh air and valley
scenery only two hours away from the capital. Indeed,
the road is choked on Thursday afternoons. We even
see a sprinkling of international visitors. Massoud's
tomb, now under construction, is the biggest single
magnet, even attracting visitors by the bus-load.
Tourism is one of the Governor's top priorities for
provincial development. Panjshiris tell us they will
welcome the tourist trade and are beginning to plan
for it with hotels and restaurants.

5. (SBU) Negative: The road work, even before the
DBST starts, has one immediate negative effect: It
severs agricultural fields from traditional water
sources. Engineers sought to address the problem by
installing over 200 culverts. Many farmers, though,
have taken matters into their own hands by digging
dozens of troughs across the road to channel water.

KABUL 00003078 002.2 OF 003


The result is a sort of inverted speed bump, which
damages the road base. Farmers are likely to continue
to do so even after the Double Bituminous Surface
Treatment (DBST). With PRT assistance,
project managers have raised the issue with the
Governor and explored options for working the issue
with community leaders. (COMMENT: Much work went into
the design and construction of a by-pass irrigation
canal to put the same water on the down side slope of
the road from which the farmers could draw their water
in the same method. However, the farmers seem to have
ignored the effort and still are damaging the road.
They need to be aware that there is only so much money
for the road without these unwarranted complications.
We should not reinforce bad behavior on their part.
END COMMENT.)

Political Impact
----------------

6. (SBU) Positive: The road epitomizes the American
commitment to Panjshiri development. Years from now,
according to one contact, it will still stand as the
"American road." After the defeat of the Taliban,
Panjshiris put forth two main demands: establishment
of a separate Panjshir province and rehabilitation of
the main Panjshir road. The one happened in 2004; the
other will come to fruition this year.

7. (SBU) Positive: Once paved, the road will promote
better governance by enabling provincial officials to
travel around the province and conduct their business.
It will also facilitate travel by central government
officials to the valley, a rare occurrence at the
moment. A road will also improve disaster response,
especially in those remote areas in the north more at
risk of being cut off by snow.

8. (SBU) Negative: Panjshiris tell us they have
never seen DBST before and had expected "asphalt."
Some see DBST as an inferior surface and thus a
disparaging political statement about the province.
(COMMENT: This is a common complaint in certain
regions; however, USAID contractors have undertaken an
assessment of the needs of the valley and determined
that the additional cost would not provide any
additional benefit. The DBST road should be adequate
provided that overloaded trucks are prevented from
damaging the road. END COMMENT.) We view the challenge
as educating Panjshiri opinion leaders on the
qualities of DBST and its suitability for the
province. To this end, PRT'ers will continue to meet
with the Governor and community leaders.

Social Impact
-------------

9. (SBU) Positive: The rehabilitated road will break
down the social isolation of the Panjshiris and may
erode their instinctive distrust of outsiders. For
the first time, it will establish a reliable road
connection between the province and the wider world,
especially Kabul. The road will promote commercial
interaction and tourist travel, two potent agents of

KABUL 00003078 003.2 OF 003


social change.

10. (SBU) Positive: Vehicular traffic on the current
road generates clouds of dust, a continuous nuisance
for all shops and a health hazard for the butcher
markets. DBST, through its dust abatement, will have
a salutary effect.

11. (SBU) Negative: Given current Panjshiri road
behavior, we expect a spike in accidents, including
child fatalities. The possibility of greater
vehicular speed will no doubt lead to more accidents.
Currently, children use the road as a playground;
animals, as a track. Further, veterans of road work
in Afghanistan are certain that the road will bring in
more alcohol and drunk driving. We are planning a
traffic-safety initiative to educate drivers and
pedestrians. PRT'ers have already helped hand out
brochures to drivers on safety issues.

Comment
-------

12. (SBU) In Panjshir, the road is the biggest single
agent of change. The result is a transformation of
the valley - not so much globalization as,
"Kabulization." For the first time, the province will
be connected to the capital. We see many signs of the
presence of Kabul in the valley - economically,
politically and socially. Meanwhile, the PRT is
working to address the negative change introduced by
the road. Thus, we are coordinating with interested
parties to find a solution to the irrigation
controversy; defuse the confusion over DBST; and
improve traffic safety.


NEUMANN

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