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Cablegate: Prt Gardez: Paktia Province Six Month Report

VZCZCXRO9142
OO RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #2341/01 2021240
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211240Z JUL 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9218
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
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002341

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR AHARRIMAN
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT
RELEASABLE TO NATO/ISAF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: PRT GARDEZ: PAKTIA PROVINCE SIX MONTH REPORT

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Security incidents have increased with the onset of
warm weather in Paktia, but vigorous government and coalition
counter-insurgency activities have maintained a climate that
allows for expanded economic development and the gradual
extension of GOA administrative control. The new governor is
engaging tribal leaders to build support for the central
government. He must overcome widespread disenchantment,
suspicion of the Kabul administration, and frustration over a
lack of basic government services. Paktia,s economy, which
is based on subsistence agriculture, will require significant
assistance to be reflected in an improvement in the standard
of living. The PRT's USAID and US military aid programs,
along with German implementer GTZ, are the major sources of
international assistance. UNAMA and several NGO's are
present in the province, but donors remain reluctant to fund
projects due to lingering security concerns. Paktia's
conservative, predominantly Pashtun population impinges on
women,s rights. Weak rule of law institutions increase
dependence on traditional dispute resolution mechanisms.
Despite these drawbacks, international players in the field
are optimistic that, with sufficient resources, progress is
possible. END SUMMARY.

SECURITY: HEIGHTENED INSURGENCY BUT OVERALL IMPROVEMENT
--------------------------------------------- -----------

2. (SBU) The number and scale of security incidents in
Paktia have significantly increased during the past six
months. The onset of warm weather has facilitated
insurgent movement into the area from neighboring Pakistan,
but overall violence appears to be less severe than last year
at this time, mostly due to GOA and Coalition taking the
initiative against insurgents. ANA performance has improved
steadily, while the ANP remains weak. Corruption remains an
issue for the ANP. The Gardez Regional Training Center (RTC)
has trained over 300 ANAP recruits who have been deployed in
the province -- with mixed results. The Taliban still
control parts of Southern Zormat District, an insurgent
bastion and staging area, and remain active, though less
influential, in the strategic Khost/Gardez Pass. Security is
sufficiently stable in the rest of Paktia to enable economic
development efforts to continue and expand.

3. (SBU) The Pakistan-Afghan border of Northern Jaji and
Dand Wa Pathan Districts remains tense, but stable following
clashes in May between Afghan security forces and Pakistan
military elements. Immediately following the border
flare-up, Coalition and Afghan forces ambushed a 300 man
Taliban force seeking to overrun the Jaji district center,
killing up to 120 of the insurgents. Most combat continues
in Zormat where the ANA scored a success in killing three top
Taliban commanders in a single encounter. IED attacks
continue throughout the province. The most devastating
incident took place in May in Gardez where a suicide bomber
killed 14 innocent bystanders while attempting to attack a
coalition convoy.

POLITICAL: AGGRESSIVE GOVERNOR AND WEAK INSTITUTIONS
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (U) Since assuming his duties last November, Governor
Rahmatullah Rahmat has proven to be an energetic
administrator who has emphasized anti-corruption and
administrative efficiency. The Attorney General,s Office
gave a boost to these efforts by arresting and dismissing
several high level provincial officials, including the
Education and Health Directors. The notoriously corrupt
Police Chief was replaced with a more effective officer.
Rahmat has attempted to appoint capable officials in key
areas, including Zormat, and has brought loyalists into the
administration. He wields a firm hand with local officials
and traditional leaders and meets frequently with them.
Rahmat and his department directors complain about a lack of
central government funding for their activities.


KABUL 00002341 002 OF 002


5. (SBU) Perceptions of and allegiance to the provincial and
district administrators depends largely on the personalities
and capabilities of individual administrators. The
government,s continued inability to
provide basic services is reflected in a cynical attitude
toward government among most Paktians, who, in turn, continue
to rely on traditional authorities. Local
residents view the central government as weak, corrupt,
and incompetent, though the most visceral condemnations
are reserved for neighboring Pakistan for promoting the
insurgency and seeking to destabilize the region.
Parliamentarians representing the province in Kabul
are not significant players in Paktia, though MP and
former Mujahideen commander Pacha Khan Zadran has a
notable personal following. The Provincial Council
plays a useful role in promoting development projects
but is still evolving as a political institution.

ECONOMIC: ENORMOUS DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGE
-----------------------------------------

6. (U) The Paktia economy is based primarily on subsistence
or semi-subsistence farming. Commerce and smuggling with
Pakistan and remittances from abroad provide some
compensatory income, the province has enormous development
needs. The stable security situation in most areas of Paktia
has encouraged some Afghan and international NGO's to
increase their engagement. UNAMA,s Southeastern Regional
Headquarters is located in Gardez. Lingering security
concerns continue to deter most donors and the PRT continues
to play a key development role.

CULTURAL/SOCIAL: TRADITIONAL NORMS PREVAIL
-------------------------------------------

7. (U) Paktia,s conservative, rural population is 90
percent Pashtun, most living in isolated communities.
About 70 percent of the population is illiterate, and
traditional tribal social norms prevail. Despite some
improvements, women typically suffer from limited access to
education, forced marriages, "badan" (exchange of female
relatives as compensation in a tribal feud), and honor
crimes. Tribal disputes are commonplace, especially over
land issues, and are typically resolved by traditional
inter-tribal councils, sometimes overseen by the Governor.
Dependence on traditional dispute resolution mechanisms is
due in part to the weak rule of law sector in Paktia. Judges
and prosecutors are poorly paid, under-trained, and
vulnerable to corruption.

8. (SBU) While the ANA generally has respected human
rights, allegations of abuse have emerged from the
Taliban-influenced Zormat District, scene of most combat
operations in the province. These allegations include:
arbitrary arrest and detention, the theft of property
during searches, extortion, and extra-legal execution. The
provincial National Security Directorate (PDS) has been
accused of arbitrary arrest and extortion. Some citizens
complained of being wrongfully targeted for operations by the
ANA and US forces.

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM DESPITE OBSTACLES
-----------------------------------

9. (SBU) Paktia,s tribal social structures and lack of
economic developed helps make it vulnerable to insurgents.
Lack of capacity and funding for government institutions,
further hampered by corruption, remain major impediments to
expanded government influence. The people of Paktia
nevertheless are receptive to international efforts and loyal
to the concept of an Afghan national identity. Efforts to
improve the situation are beginning to bear fruit, but
progress is grudging and incremental. Coalition and GOA
efforts to improve security seem to be succeeding, especially
with the commitment of more troops to the region.

WOOD

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