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Cablegate: President Karzai's New Governance Czar Outlines

VZCZCXRO5274
OO RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #3054/01 2551147
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 121147Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0194
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 03 KABUL 003054

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KDEM PGOV PINR AF
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT KARZAI'S NEW GOVERNANCE CZAR OUTLINES
VISION FOR REFORM

REF: A. KABUL 2684
B. KABUL 1712

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) President Karzai established the new Office of Local
Administration on August 30 and appointed as its director
general Ghulam Jelani Popal, a respected former deputy
minister of finance. Popal outlined his vision for making
the Afghan government "a reality in the lives of the people,"
partly by putting "maliks" -- traditional quasi-official
liaisons between tribes and the government -- on the
government payroll. He is considering replacing several
governors. He will also urge the central government to give
more support to governors and provincial councils,
particularly by seeking their input on security requirements,
making other ministries more responsive, and channeling funds
for sub-national priorities. The JCMB "Informal Group" of
Ambassadors has invited Popal to outline the support he needs
to help him overcome political opposition to his reform
agenda. The Embassy and USAID are also considering how to
ensure that the new office, which inherits MOI staff, does
not also inherit its deficiencies. END SUMMARY.

LEADERSHIP FOR SUB-NATIONAL GOVERNANCE REFORM
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) President Karzai issued a decree on August 30
establishing the Office of Local Administration, a focal
point for governance policy under the Presidency and a new
home for the Ministry of Interior's dysfunctional Civil
Administration Division (ref A). He appointed as its
director general Ghulam Jelani Popal, a Pashtun close to the
Karzai family and the deputy chairman of Minister of Finance
Ahady's Afghan Millat Party. As a respected former Deputy
Minister of Finance under Ashraf Gani, Popal centralized the
collection of customs revenue, diminishing the influence of
regional warlords over an important source of government
revenue. He speaks fluent English and reportedly lived in
the U.S. from 1998-2001. He worked on local development as
head of the Afghanistan Development Association (ADA) NGO,
and is thought to have credibility with tribes, especially in
the South.

3. (SBU) Popal's deputy for policy is Barna Karimi, formerly
deputy to Karzai's previous Chief of Staff Jawad Ludin, who
has has a reputation for competence. The new deputy for
administration is the out-going MOI deputy minister for civil
administration Abdul Malek Sediqi, a former communist
technocrat whose moribund division's inactivity led to its
move to the Palace. Popal's appointment was preceded by a
week of Palace intrigue in which Sediqi, reportedly backed by
Parliament Speaker Qanooni, challenged Karzai's pick for the
top governance job. Popal suggested to Poloff that Sediqi's
appointment was a political necessity and that Sediqi may not
last long in the office, saying that he can nevertheless help
the new office learn routine, administrative procedures for
"at least three or four months" while Popal and Karimi press
forward with reform.

AN AFGHAN VISION FOR LOCAL GOVERNANCE
-------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Popal outlined his vision for sub-national
governance reform in an introductory meeting with Poloff on
September 8, saying, "Legitimacy comes not just from the
ballot box, but from delivering security and services."
Afghans have high expectations of the international community
and their government that are not being met, according to
Popal, while the Taliban, from whom Afghans expect little,
are in fact helping address local problems in many villages
(often by taking sides in tribal disputes). Popal
acknowledged the good work that has built the government at
the center, but said "the government is not a reality in the
lives of the people." He thinks governance policy needs a
consistent approach backed by political will, saying that

KABUL 00003054 002 OF 003


"Karzai is committed."

5. (SBU) For Popal, the key to strengthening government
authority is creating a system through which formal
government structures can systematically interface with
tribal leaders at the local level. Historically, he
explained, district administrators interfaced with the tribes
through "maliks", quasi-official tribal representatives
selected by local communities to solve collective problems,
sometimes by convening shuras, and charging fees for
facilitating access to government services. Popal said this
system worked smoothly, but was undermined by three decades
of war. (NOTE: The traditional malik system was replaced by
elected village representatives under the 1964 Constitution
and then by community based councils under the Daud regime
(1973-78), which tended to function as propaganda outlets for
the regime rather than as conduits from villages up to the
central government. END NOTE.) Popal intends to revive a
similar system of officially recognized tribal liaisons by
identifying those community leaders informally playing this
role and providing them with a modest government stipend. He
estimated that the system would require 10,000 maliks, or 30
for each of Afghanistan's 400 districts. (NOTE: Popal did
not indicate how he would fund this system, but he alluded to
reforming the bloated staff of the MOI's former civil
administration division. END NOTE.)

6. (SBU) Popal said that Afghanistan cannot yet afford --
politically or financially -- formal elections at the
district and community level, as foreseen in the
Constitution. For the 2009/10 election cycle, village shuras
will play the role of district councils, and maliks from each
district will collectively form a district shura. Popal
plans to "streamline" the number of shuras currently claiming
to represent communities, many of which have formed since the
war to represent powerful individuals and lack legitimacy.
Popal said the government should only consider extending
formal democracy below the provinces once the state becomes
stronger. However, he supports elections in 2009/10 for
municipal councils and mayors, which -- unlike district and
village councils -- have independent revenue-raising
authority and a clear mandate to deliver municipal services.

7. (SBU) Popal acknowledged that his vision differs somewhat
from that of the Community Development Councils (CDCs)
established by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and
Development. He said the existence of CDCs is based on the
promise of development funds, but that they are otherwise
artificial, not well-rooted, and unsustainable. The
existence of 17,000 CDCs nevertheless "makes our lives
easier" because many local leaders who could play the role of
maliks are already participating in CDCs. Popal is in the
process of negotiating with MRRD the appropriate future role
for CDCs. (NOTE: The World Bank told Poloff that CDCs may
remain within MRRD and retain their original development role
rather than evolve into formal village councils. END NOTE.)

REVITALIZING SUPPORT FOR GOVERNORS AND PCS
------------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Popal will oversee Afghanistan's 34 provincial
governors, and says that President Karzai has agreed to stop
receiving governors and to refer them instead to Popal's
office, except for "two or three of the biggest warlords."
Popal said effective provincial governance not only depends
on appointing the right governors, but also on supporting
them with resources and security. He intends to fill
vacancies in Faryab and Jowzjan, and to replace several
governors, mentioning Kunar Governor Deedar and Ghazni
governor Patan. (NOTE: The Asia Foundation (TAF), which has
been advising Popal on the structure of his new Office, told
Poloff that Popal had insisted as a condition of accepting
the job that Karzai replace several governors, possibly
including Uruzgan Governor Monib, Wardak Governor Naimi,
Farah Governor Balouch, and Zabul Governor Arman. END NOTE.)

KABUL 00003054 003 OF 003


9. (SBU) Popal confirmed that administrative authority over
provincial councils will move from Faruk Wardak's Office of
Administrative Affairs to his new office (ref B). He
observed that PCs were established to play their
Constitutional role in appointing members of the upper house
of Parliament (the Meshrano Jirga), but they have otherwise
been under-utilized and should be given real authority.

DONOR SUPPORT FOR AFGHAN-LED GOVERNANCE REFORM
--------------------------------------------- -

10. (SBU) The JCMB "Informal Group" of Ambassadors discussed
on September 4 how to support the new Office, agreeing to
invite Popal to outline his plans and needs. SRSG Koenigs
said, "There is a crisis of political legitimacy and a lack
of belief in institutions from the President down to the
provinces," and that Afghanistan needs a more "robust and
connected" system of governance. He concluded on behalf of
the group that the new office is a positive reform that
raises high expectations and deserves support. Popal told
Poloff that he plans to ask for public support from the
international community to overcome political opposition to
his reform agenda. He will also request technical assistance
and financial support. Popal and Karimi were pleased to
receive a copy of an inventory of governance programs
developed by the Embassy, and requested further working-level
consultations to refine their agenda.

11. (SBU) One issue requiring urgent attention is how to
ensure that the new office, which inherits MOI staff, does
not also inherit its deficiencies. If reform is to stick,
the new office will need effective leadership within as well
as at the top. The Asia foundation estimates that the new
office will need seven core senior officials and 52 new staff
in key positions as a first step in implementing serious
reform. The Embassy and USAID have encouraged the Afghan
Government to show that the new office is a priority by
funding its transitional staffing needs as we explore how
best to support the new office's reform agenda.
DELL

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