Cablegate: Uruzgan Preprares for a Successful Voter Registration

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1. (SBU) Summary: With less than one month until the January 20
kick-off of the Phase IV voter registration period, Uruzgan election
and ANSF officials are making steady progress in planning for a
campaign that could lead to at least 100,000 new voters. The
veteran Provincial Elections Officer has already identified most of
his staff for the 11 voter registration centers and 52 sub-stations,
ensured that there would be at least 12 female sub-stations in the
province, and launched an ambitious public awareness campaign.
Serious logistical and security challenges remain -- e.g.,
transportation of IEC equipment and personnel to remote and unstable
districts, an expected surge in IED attacks, and an uninterested and
absent governor -- but ISAF and CF are working closely with the
Afghan officials to address these obstacles. End Summary.

Logistical Preparations: So Far, So Good

2. (SBU) In a December 14 meeting with PRT and PRTOff, IEC
Provincial Election Officer (PEO) Obaidullah Osmani provided a
detailed update on the logistical preparations for the Phase IV
voter registration (VR) campaign in Uruzgan, which was recently
postponed until January 20. Osmani, an Uruzgan native and former
District Field Coordinator (DFC) during the 2004/2005 general
elections, demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of the province's
political and tribal challenges, the administrative steps in the VR
process, and his responsibilities and those of his subordinates.

3. (SBU) Below is a brief overview of the VR process in Uruzgan:

-- There will be 11 voter registration centers (VRCs) and 52
sub-stations: four VRCs and 21 sub-stations in provincial capital
Tarin Kowt; two VRCs and nine substations in Deh Rawood; one VRC and
five sub-stations in Chora; two VRCs and nine sub-stations in Khas
Uruzgan; one VRC and four sub-stations in Char Chineh; and, one VRC
and four sub-stations in (unofficial) Chenartu district. Osmani
requested CF air support to transport Independent Election
Commission (IEC) personnel and materials to the more remote and
unstable Khas Uruzgan, Char Chineh, and Chenartu districts, but
Osmani agreed that ANSF should be his first point of contact; CF
would fill in the gaps.

-- The VRCs and sub-stations are located in the most populated areas
to minimize security risks. For security reasons, sub-stations were
not set up in the heavily concentrated Ghilzai Pashtun areas outside
the district centers of Tarin Kowt and Chora, given that those towns
remain largely under Taliban influence. These voters will have to
travel up to three hours, walking to Tarin Kowt and Chora centers to
register. Osmani commented that, "unfortunately, 50% of the
population in the Ghilzai areas wants to register and the other 50%
wants to kill the people who register."

-- There will be a minimum of 12 sub-stations designated for women,
with at least one female sub-station located in each district, with
the possible exception of Chenartu. The lack of literate women in
Uruzgan poses a problem. Osmani has already hired 10 literate women
to fulfill clerical duties at the female sub-stations, and, if
necessary, would try to put one literate female IEC supervising
official in each female sub-station. Additional literate women are
still needed to staff the remaining designated sub-stations for
women. If he comes up short, Osmani would have to reduce the number
of female sub-stations.

-- DFCs and most of the IEC personnel have been hired for all
districts, except Char Chineh. Osmani pointed out that he has
received several applications for the DFC slot in Char Chineh and
other positions, but he seeks only "the most qualified staff."

Expected Turnout and Public Awareness Campaign
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) Osmani estimated that approximately 140,000 Uruzgan
residents should have their VR cards from the previous election.
Kabul IEC staff recommended that he should be ready to receive
roughly 102,000 VR applications in January; however, Osmani believes
the turnout will be higher. The Australian Reconstruction Task
Force in Uruzgan conducted a survey of voting-age residents of Khas
Uruzgan in 2007, and found that 50,000 residents planned to register
for the 2009 election. If Khas Uruzgan district, one of the
province's medium-sized districts, reaches 50,000 new registrations,
the number of registrations from other districts alone could exceed

5. (SBU) Osmani, determined to surpass the 102,000 benchmark, will
launch an aggressive public awareness campaign. In addition to the

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nationally broadcast television, radio, and SMS text messages, which
began on December 15, teams of one man and one woman will be
dispatched to residential and commercial areas around the VRCs and
sub-stations to directly engage Uruzgan residents on their civic
duty to participate in the democratic process and register (if
necessary) for the upcoming elections. The teams will visit
mosques, clinics, businesses, shuras, and private residences.

Key Challenges

6. (SBU) Security, Security, Security. The PEO, ANSF provincial
commanders, ISAF, and CF remain concerned that local insurgents will
generate more night letters and lay more IEDs along the routes to
VRCs and sub-stations. Although ISAF and CF have recently conducted
several small-scale clearing operations in Taliban-controlled areas
in preparation for the VR, ANSF (mostly ANP) continue to suffer from
a surge in IED attacks. Task Force Uruzgan (TFU), USSF, U.S. PMTs,
and PRTOff have urged the ANSF at the provincial and district levels
to develop joint security plans, and the first such meeting occurred
on December 20. Provincial Chief of Police Jumma Ghul added that he
would rely on the recent graduates of the ANP Focused District
Development (FDD) training program to serve as VRC security and road
checkpoint commanders in Tarin Kowt and Deh Rawood. Ghul is eager
to put his trained personnel to use.

7. (SBU) Absent Governor. Governor Hamdam has done little to
support or coordinate the work of the IEC and ANSF officials or
raise local interest in the VR campaign. Hamdam, who is on vacation
from December 5 until approximately January 19, left the formidable
task to a weak deputy governor and the TFU. The deputy governor
wants a successful VR campaign and, despite his limited influence in
the province, has cultivated solid ties with the PEO and ANSF
provincial commanders. The TFU and ANSF commanders will coordinate
with the deputy governor to address the logistical and security
hurdles at the district level in a timely manner.


© Scoop Media

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