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Cablegate: Prt Uruzgan: Chora Leaders Speak to Afghan

VZCZCXRO0785
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2249/01 1931435
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 121435Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9105
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMSOCCENT MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 002249

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A, S/CRS, SA/PB, S/CT,
EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC PASS FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-...



115211
2007-07-12
07KABUL2249
Embassy Kabul
SECRET//NOFORN

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 002249

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A, S/CRS, SA/PB, S/CT,
EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC PASS FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/10/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER ASEC MARR AF IR
SUBJECT: PRT URUZGAN: CHORA LEADERS SPEAK TO AFGHAN
INDEPENDENT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION


Classified By: PolCouns Sara Rosenberry for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) On July 6, Chora district and tribal leaders met at
the district center with a team from the Afghan Independent
Human Rights Commission investigating civilian losses in the
June fight for Chora. Their message was clear and measured,
devoid of the histrionics or exaggeration and blame for ISAF
that have characterized statements made by Governor Monib, MP
Abdul Khaliq Khan, and others. Chora's leaders made three
main points. The fight took a heavy toll on civilians in the
area but Chora leaders spoke only of total losses. Many
ISAF-caused civilian losses resulted from the Taliban's
tactic of fighting from positions where civilians were
present. Dutch forces must not be withdrawn from Chora as
this would trigger Taliban re-infiltration into the area
which will result in the cycle of violence repeating itself.
END SUMMARY

Background
----------

2. (SBU) PRTOFF traveled via helicopter to Chora July 6
with a 4-member review team from the Afghan Independent Human
Rights Commission (AIHRC). The team traveled to Uruzgan to
investigate civilian losses during the fight for Chora June
15-19 (along with several UNAMA representatives). UNAMA
spoke to provincial government officials in Tarin Kowt and
stayed at Governor Monib's compound but did not go along to
Chora, citing security concerns. The AIHRC team and PRTOFF
met with District Chief Mohammad Ibrahim and about 20 tribal
leaders. We also spoke to doctors from the Chora clinic,
select civilian victims, and the ANA deployed in Chora. The
team had sent word they expected to also meet with District
Chief of Police Mohammed Gul but he was not at the meeting.

The Civilian Toll
-----------------

3. (SBU) The tribal leaders briefed the team on losses
suffered by the local civilian population. They claimed
that 87 civilians were killed and 50-60 compounds and
approximately 2800 kg of wheat were destroyed. (Note: The
number of civilian deaths is thought by Task Force Uruzgan
analysts to be too high because it likely includes fighting
age males dressed in civilian garb who were more likely
combatants. End Note) They stated that most civilians were
killed in houses destroyed by shelling from three sources:
aerial bombardment from ISAF aircraft, artillery fired from
the Dutch Panzer Howitzer in Tarin Kowt, and rockets fired by
the Taliban's BM1 and BM12. Their stories were consistent
with other accounts of the fighting known to PRTOFF. Local
leaders recounted the events in a calm, matter-of-fact manner
with little of the emotion or exaggeration that often
accompanies shura discussions of highly charged topics.
Their presentation stood in sharp contrast to petulant
statements made by Governor Monib and other leaders such as
Abdul Khaliq Khan, member of the Wolsei Jirga for Uruzgan who
is from Chora. They accused ISAF of causing too many losses
to local civilians with heavy-handed tactics, while
simultaneously complaining bitterly of insufficient ISAF
responses to defend Chora. They also want more offensive
action against Taliban bases allegedly far removed from
population centers.

Taliban Tactics Put Civilians in Harms Way
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Leaders declined to comment when asked by the team
to say what part of the damage was caused by ISAF. Instead,
they provided examples and spoke of locals killed by Taliban
before and during the battle, such as the beheadings of two

KABUL 00002249 002 OF 003


militia members loyal to pro-GOA militia leaders in the days
leading up to the Taliban's big attack June 16. They also
talked vividly about Taliban tactics that purposely put
civilians in danger of ISAF counterattacks (bombs and direct
fire). For example, in the village of Qal'a-i-Ragh, one
villager (Jano Aqa) said that Taliban fighting in and around
his compound led ISAF to target the location, killing 18
members of his family and hospitalizing Aqa. In another
case, as local residents were leaving the district center to
return to their homes at the urging of local leaders, Taliban
fired an RPG at a nearby Dutch armored vehicle, reportedly
triggering renewed ISAF fire and causing residents to once
again seek refuge and to refuse to return to their homes.

Dear Dutch, Please Don't Go
---------------------------

5. (SBU) During the shura, the leaders expressed their
fear that the Taliban would likely attack Chora again this
summer. They noted that Taliban had returned to their
sanctuaries to the north in Gizab and to the south in the
Baluchi pass, as well as in the Darefshan Valley to regroup.
They implored the international troops to either bring
security to this area or tell us to leave.

6. (C) At the end of the shura, while victims were talking
to the human rights commission representatives, two tribal
leaders approached PRTOFF to press the point further. They
believed the Dutch were under pressure from President Karzai
and Governor Monib to abandon the district center building
(aka White Compound) where the Dutch camp out when in Chora
and that this was the cause of Dutch plans to remove their
troops, leaving only ANSF to maintain security. (Note: Dutch
occupation of this USAID-funded government building has
indeed been a bone of contention with the district chief and
provincial governor, but the Dutch are willing to move if
allowed to rent a nearby compound in reasonable condition for
a reasonable price. End Note.) They argued that the ANSF
were not yet strong enough in numbers or ability to repel the
expected renewed Taliban push into the area. If the Dutch
leave as they did in May, the tribal leaders assessed that
the Taliban will inevitably try to take the district center
once again, necessitating the Dutch to fight hard to regain
lost ground, bombard the area and kill civilians, thus
repeating the cycle. If the Dutch stayed, the tribal leaders
argued, the cycle of violence remains broken and local
residents can get back to normal life. Later in the week,
Chora leaders reportedly sent a letter to President Karzai
making similar arguments for retaining ISAF's presence in the
vicinity.

7. (S/NF) The Dutch commander indeed had stated his intent
to withdraw from Chora by July 12. However, on Saturday,
July 7, the TFU command staff reversed this position and
decided to maintain a permanent presence in Chora for the
time being. The Dutch will continue to secure Chora while
local police are trained and more Afghan forces are sought
for the province and the Chora area in particular.

Iranian Training Bases in Gizab
-------------------------------

8. (C/REL NATO/AUS) Local leaders claimed that people
traveling through Chora from Gizab district told them that
Iranians were training Taliban fighters in Gizab. One person
well known to the PRT said the training camp was in Beirai
(phonetic), a village in a Hazara area of Gizab, but the
tribal leaders were unable to provide more specific
information. (Note: Gizab has been under Taliban control
since March 2006; there is no GOA presence there, and no
Afghan or international forces have attempted to address this
problem to date. End Note)

Comment
-------

KABUL 00002249 003 OF 003


9. (S/NF) Chora leaders' decision to take a factual,
pragmatic approach makes their story and pleas all the more
credible. They seem to instinctively realize that it is not
in their interest to complain loudly about civilian losses.
And they are right. The political backlash this would cause
here and in the Netherlands could force the Dutch military to
end their current presence in the area, leaving residents
once again vulnerable to Taliban attack. In fact, Chora
leaders now are lobbying the Dutch to establish an
international forward operating base in the area and have
volunteered to provide land for the purpose. The Dutch are
not inclined to do so, feeling that such a base would tax
their resources beyond acceptable limits. However, they are
beginning to consider the possibility of suggesting that the
GOA establish an ANA base there supported by Dutch trainers.
Regardless of what action is taken, all seem to have realized
that local residents and international troops alike are
better off continuing to work together in Chora to keep the
Taliban out.

WOOD

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