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Cablegate: First Anniversary of the Afghan Parliament

VZCZCXRO3165
PP RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #5930/01 3570846
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230846Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5037
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 005930

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO GASTRIGHT
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
CENTCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PREL AF
SUBJECT: FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE AFGHAN PARLIAMENT

1. (U) On December 20, the Afghan Parliament marked its first
anniversary with a briefing to the international community
and the press in the Wolesi Jirga on the year's progress.
The ceremony was attended by almost 100 members of the
diplomatic corps, Coalition Force, UNAMA representatives,
members of international aid organizations and other VIPs.
Inaugurated by President Karzai on December 19, 2005, the
Parliament has taken a prominent place in Afghanistan's
political life. It serves as a body for discussion of
questions that touch the very core of Afghanistan's
existence, brings together actors from every faction of the
Afghan political spectrum, and has seriously taken up its
responsibility to represent constituents from every region in
the country. Considering that modern Afghanistan has not had
such a deliberative body in decades, and that the seat of
Parliament was only a ruined collection of uninhabitable
buildings until 2005, the first anniversary marked a major
step forward in Afghanistan's political progress towards
democracy.

2. (U) While they admitted that there are many challenges
ahead, Wolesi Jirga Speaker Yunus Qanooni, Deputy Speakers
Aref Noorzai and Fawzia Koofi, and Secretary General Ghulam
Hassan Gran presented a generally positive and optimistic
picture of the Parliament's first year. They pointed to the
modern infrastructure, the presence of 91 women among the 249
members of the Wolesi Jirga and the 102 in the Meshrano
Jirga, the steps taken to select a Speaker and deputies, the
establishment of eighteen oversight commissions in the Wolesi
Jirga (three of which are chaired by women), the adoption of
Rules of Procedure, establishment of an advisory board and
the recognition of (thus far) three parliamentary political
groups. They pointed out that the process of confirmation of
the Cabinet Ministers, Supreme Court Justices and other high
office holders was a decisive demonstration of the checks and
balances necessary between the Legislative, Executive and
Judicial branches of the government. The Afghan budget had
been debated, modified and approved. Key subjects of national
importance, ranging from security, anti-corruption measures,
development programs and government salaries had been
discussed in depth. The Parliament's oversight
responsibilities had involved sessions that included 30
meetings with Cabinet Ministers, 14 with Deputy Ministers,
and 72 meetings at the level of government department heads.
The speakers noted that in its first year, the Wolesi Jirga
had received 852 petitions and complaints from the public and
was following up action on these appeals with various
government offices.

3. (U) Oversight responsibilities had included prison visits
by commission members, visits to military units, visits to
witness the destruction of illegal narcotics and a delegation
visit to investigate civilian casualties in the Panjwayee
district of Kandahar Province following military activities
there. In the legislative area, Parliament has the
responsibility of reviewing all decrees and laws signed after
the fall of the Taliban. To date, 100 decrees were in the
pipeline, 31 are being studied by relevant commissions and 5
laws have been approved and sent to the President for his
signature. The speakers noted the large number of official
visits paid on Parliament by foreign government
representatives, stressed the ongoing training of the 227
members of the professional staff as well as the MPs
themselves, and touched on visits by MPs and staff to more
than 20 foreign parliaments. They acknowledged the
contributions of the international community to the
establishment and ongoing life of the Parliament.

4. (U) In conclusion, the Afghan speakers noted that the
Parliament was part of the national process of stabilization
and improvement, claiming that rule of law and governance
were challenges faced by all of Afghanistan, and progress was
slow but steady. Representatives of the international
community congratulated Qanooni and his colleagues on the
occasion of the first anniversary of the Parliament. DCM
noted in his remarks that the U.S. looked to Wolesi Jirga
members, informed by the views of their constituents, to
guide us in making the process of reconstruction in
Afghanistan more effective.

5. (SBU) Comment: Post fully agrees that the Parliament has
been a major and generally positive addition to governance in
Afghanistan. There are certainly many challenges ahead for
this body, including improvement of relations between the
Wolesi Jirga and the Meshrano Jirga (the latter did not
participate and was not represented at the anniversary

KABUL 00005930 002 OF 002


briefing, and secretariat relations between the two houses
can be strained), improvement of capacity and professionalism
in the support staff, and improved discipline in the MPs'
relations with the Palace and Ministries. In general,
however, the Parliament has changed the face of political
life in Afghanistan in a decisive way, and the coming year is
certain to bring even more changes on the political stage as
the Parliament matures. End comment.

6. (U) A detailed analysis of parliament's first year of
activities will follow septel.

NORLAND
NORLAND

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