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Cablegate: New Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation

VZCZCXRO9075
OO RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #3856 3211230
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171230Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1471
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 003856

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A, PRM
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF PREL PHUM AF
SUBJECT: NEW AFGHAN MINISTER OF REFUGEES AND REPATRIATION
SHEER MOHAMMAD ETEBARI

REF: A. KABUL 3520
B. KABUL 3414

1. (SBU) On November 17, the Afghan Parliament confirmed
Sheer Mohammmad Etebari as the new Minister of Refugees and
Repatriation, replacing the ineffectual Akbar Akbar. UNHCR
and the Kabul Refugee Section both see Etebari as a less than
perfect but acceptable alternative to Akbar and have worked
quietly behind the scenes to support and encourage his
confirmation. Etebari was confirmed as part of the package
(Governor of the Central Bank and Supreme Court nominee)
considered by the Walesi Jirga. All were confirmed.

2. (SBU) UNHCR had urged Speaker Qanooni to unblock Etebari's
confirmation, which had been held hostage by the disagreement
between Speaker Qanooni and President Karzai over Foreign
Minister Spanta's future. The Refugee Secton encouraged
Etebari's low-key lobbying of important members of
parliament. Etebari did not give a strong presentation at
the hearing and received only 95 votes out of 168, only ten
votes over the 85-vote minimum. Etebari is currently on the
National Security Council (NSC) and rumored to be a close
friend of the Karzai family. He is not a member of the
Itahad-i-Islami party but reportedly has the support of Ustad
Abdurab Rasoul Sayyaf, a powerful former warlord and member
of parliament who heads the party.

3. (SBU) We will need to help Etebari shape a coherent
strategy to create sustainable repatriation and resettlement
policies. In conversations with the Refugee Section, his
enthusiasm has been encouraging but his ideas unrealistic.
As he did in his confirmation hearing, he makes sweeping and
improbable statements about taking back government-owned
agricultural land from local warlords and giving it to
returning refugees. He was open to UNHCR and Embassy advice
as he prepared for his hearing and said he welcomes continued
close collaboration.

4. (SBU) Etebari spent some years in Peshawar as a refugee
but frequently returned to Afghanistan throughout the
conflict years. He worked as a geography teacher, UN and NGO
field representative, paramedic, mujahadeen guide, and
television cameraman before joining the NSC. He speaks
passable (and colorful) English.
WOOD

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