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Cablegate: Prt/Panshjir: Kabul-Panjshir Relations Part I: The

VZCZCXRO2682
PP RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #5810/01 3460323
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 120323Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4817
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3373
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 005810

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CR, S/CT, SCA/PAB, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR KIMMITT
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76, AND POLAD
RELEASABLE TO NATO/ISAF/AUS/NZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV INR AF
SUBJECT: PRT/PANSHJIR: KABUL-PANJSHIR RELATIONS PART I: THE
PROVINCE IN THE CAPITAL

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Relations between the valley province of
Panjshir and the capital city of Kabul have evolved this past
year. Panjshiris in the central government maintain their
prominence, although the sacking of Abdullah Abdullah as
Foreign Minister this spring caused some resentment in the
province. The main political change has been the emergence
of Panjshir Governor Bahlul as an active presence in the
capital, lobbying for his province. His relations with
President Karzai, however, have worsened, punctuated by a few
sharp exchanges over policy at a recent governors,
conference. Road projects have strengthened ties between the
province and capital, creating an increasing volume of
traffic. Improving the road link will have the greatest
long-term impact on relations. END SUMMARY

2. (U) In terms of political, commercial and
people-to-people ties, the PRT has witnessed several dramatic
changes between Panjshir and Kabul this past year. This is
the first of two cables on the subject. Part I examines the
role of Panjshiris in Kabul. Part II will report on
Kabulites in Panjshir.

-------------------
Official Delegation
-------------------

3. (U) Panjshiris, our contacts tell us, possess a sense of
exceptionalism based primarily on the Massoud-led resistance
against the Soviets and later the Taliban. Meshrano Jirga
member Aref, a Panjshiri, calls it "a special psychology."
Panjshiris are proud of their strong representation in the
central government, which includes First VP Massoud, Wolesi
Jirga Speaker Qanooni, NDS Director Saleh, Meshrano Jirga
member Aref (a former NDS Director) and Army Chief of Staff
Bismalluh Khan, a high-powered delegation, they say, for a
small-sized province.

4. (U) Panjshiri exceptionalism, our contacts continue, also
translates into a sense of entitlement for positions of power
in Kabul, and a sense of resentment if expectations are not
fulfilled. We hear grumblings when Panjshiris are sidelined
in Kabul. For example, when Dr. Abdullah was sacked as
Foreign Minister this spring, or when, earlier, Fahim Khan
was released as Defense Minister. The charge that the GOA is
elbowing aside Panjshiris is a constant refrain we hear in
our political talks in the valley.

---------------
Lobbying Effort
---------------

5. (U) Governor Bahlul, at the urging of the PRT, has
emerged as a strong Panjshir lobbyist in Kabul. He travels
to the capital regularly. He moved his wife and five
children to Kabul earlier this year, mainly to take advantage
of better schools. He has forged a strong political alliance
with VP Massoud and, although not a Panjshiri, Education
Minister Atmar. The Embassy's Fourth of July reception
illustrated the Governor's tack. He hobnobbed with Massoud
and Qanooni, but spent most of his time talking with Atmar on
education matters, a high priority for the province. Bahlul
has also attended several of the Ambassador's receptions in
Kabul for visiting American governors.

6. (U) Members of the Provincial Council (PC) occasionally
travel to Kabul on official business. The three women PC
members tell us they encounter less resistance working in
Kabul than in Panjshir. The PC Chairman, Behaduri, joined
his Afghan counterparts in late summer to report directly to
Karzai on provincial challenges. In his overview, Behaduri
reportedly told Karzai of the positive conditions in
Panjshir-- above all, that the province was free of poppy
cultivation and terrorist activity.


KABUL 00005810 002 OF 003


------------
Policy Clash
------------

7. (SBU) The Governor is circumspect on airing his views of
President Karzai. He often evades questions from visitors on
the subject, for example, with Management U/S Fore earlier
this year. Privately, he tells us he receives scant support
from Karzai. Bahlul spent months, without success, trying to
arrange a meeting with Karzai to discuss Kabul-Panjshir ties.
Karzai, he said, kept rebuffing him. Their only channel was
through Saleh at NDS but, as Bahlul admitted, his own ties
with Saleh were strained and the dialogue with Karzai stifled.

8. (SBU) Bahlul's moment of interaction with the President
came on Nov. 21-22 in Kabul at a counter-narcotics conference
chaired by Karzai and attended by all Afghan governors.
Karzai reportedly chided the assembled governors, and Bahlul
felt singled out, for cultivating contacts with the
international community at the exclusion of the GOA. Bahlul
told us he was disturbed by the criticism, since he had found
contact with the President virtually impossible.

9. (SBU) On the conference subject of counter-narcotics,
Karzai called on the governors to take a bigger role.
Bahlul, according to the read-out he gave us, queried Karzai
in plenary session: Why has the central government -- with
all its counter-narcotics resources, including an entire
ministry, failed in its effort and then turned to the
governors to address the poppy problem? Karzai's answer,
Bahlul reported to us, was incoherent.

10. (SBU) Another clash came the next day, Nov. 22, at the
same seminar. Again, Bahlul spoke out during the conference,
this time questioning Karzai's "abdication of responsibility"
in allowing the Helmand governor to broker the Musa Qala
deal. Such authority, Bahlul reportedly argued, belonged at
the central level, not provincial; and such an agreement with
the Taliban, however indirect, was a grave mistake. The
Kandahar governor also voiced criticism of Musa Qala. Karzai
reportedly turned to the Interior Minister for a reply and
left the room. Bahlul summed up his relations with Karzai
after their exchanges: "more direct, more honest, and worse
off."

-------------------
Panjshir Fraternity
-------------------

11. (SBU) Panjshiris have a habit, contacts tell us, of
leaving the valley but never losing their identity.
According to Wolsei Jirga member Regestani, a Panjshiri,
there may be more Panjshiris outside the valley than inside.
A local joke plays on this theme: When astronauts make it to
Mars, they may well find a watermelon and, inside it, a
Panjshiri. The Panjshiri community in Kabul numbers in the
multiple thousands. They rallied this past May to help
reconcile the feuding Bahlul and Saleh, two of the most
prominent Panjshiris. VP Massoud and MJ member Fahim Khan
presided over a large gathering at the Intercontinental
Hotel, over two hundred Panjhshiris, according to an
eye-witness account. The event symbolized the close-knit
Panjshir society, even in its Kabul version. Bahlul and
Saleh embraced before the group in a gesture of
reconciliation, with the assembled Panjshiris acting as
witnesses.

12. (U) There is another group of Panjshiris in Kabul, our
contacts report. These are the thousands of young men who
have moved to the capital to seek jobs and education. Many,
we understand, have landed in the security sector as guards,
a reflection of their mujahideen background. Their
remittances in support of their families are an important
financial stream into the province. The May 29 riot in Kabul

KABUL 00005810 003 OF 003


involved many Panjshiris who had resettled there recently.
MJ member Fahim Khan told us he became personally involved,
along with WJ Speaker Qanooni, to urge quiet among the
Panjshiris that day.

13. (U) The Governor told us that Panjshiris have "two
lives: a home in the valley and an apartment in the capital."
Most officials in the provincial administration, including
the Governor and Deputy Governor, spend weekends in Kabul
with their families. By the start of the weekend, on
Thursday afternoon, official business comes to a halt as
Panjshiris strike out for the capital. The USAID-funded road
projects now connect the valley with the capital almost
entirely by paved surface. It has accelerated the trend of
Panjshiris heading to Kabul, either for weekends or for
resettlement. Fahim Dashty, the editor of Kabul Weekly, told
us he can drive from his Panjshir home to his Kabul office in
just over two hours, admittedly "at a crazy speed." Earlier,
it took half a day.

-------
COMMENT
-------

14. (SBU) In terms of Kabul-Panjshir relations, the single
most transformative force this year has been the USAID-funded
road project. It has paved the way for more intense
political, commercial and people-to-people interaction. On
the political side, the PRT has encouraged Governor Bahlul to
raise his profile in Kabul to lobby for his province. In
countless conversations, we have laid out the rationale for a
Panjshir advocacy in GOA corridors: extending the reach of
the GOA into the provinces starts with extending the
reachback of the Governor to the capital. Panjshiris,
through their lobbying, are now more active in pulling the
GOA into the province. As Part II of this series will
report, we see little of the GOA pushing into the province.
END COMMENT.
NEUMANN

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