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Cablegate: Afghans to Continue Poppy Eradication

VZCZCXYZ0014
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #2346 2251550
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 131550Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0809

220697
2009-08-13
09KABUL2346
Embassy Kabul
SECRET

S E C R E T KABUL 002346

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/A, INL, EUR/PRM, INR, OSD FOR
FLOURNOY, CENTCOM FOR CG CJTF-82, POAD, JICENT KABUL FOR
COS USFOR-A

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2019
TAGS: SNAR PREL AF
SUBJECT: AFGHANS TO CONTINUE POPPY ERADICATION

Classified By: DEPUTY AMBASSADOR FRANCIS J. RICCIARDONE FOR REASONS 1.4
(B) AND (D)

1. (S) SUMMARY: Minister of Interior (MOI) Hanif Atmar
appealed to the U.S. not to completely reverse our public
opposition to poppy cultivation. He feared that doing so
would send the wrong message to farmers across
Afghanistan, and lead to a surge in poppy cultivation. Atmar
charged that the U.S. was going from one extreme to
another in our policy and charged that we were doing so
without consultations with us, your friends who are most
directly affected by what you say. He said it is important
to keep eradication as one element of an overall narcotics
policy. The primary element, he believes, would be the
creation of an intelligence-led counternarcotics police
force. Informed that the U.S. had ended funding for the
Poppy Eradication Force (PEF), Atmar said the GIRoA
nonetheless must find the resources to continue to use PEF
for some level of eradication. MOI also would use PEF as a
special force to go after narcotics kingpins, and for other
special purposes, for example, to offset the shortfalls on
elections security and convoy security. END SUMMARY

2. (S) In a meeting with Deputy Ambassador Ricciardone on
other subjects on August 2nd, Atmar said that President
Karzai was caught off guard by the recent announcement by
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP),
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, that the U.S. will no longer
support poppy eradication. President Karzai doesn,t know
how to deal with this, Atmar said. We,d like to advise
you not to move from one extreme to another. Please don,t
make this move so quickly and, when you are announcing policy
positions that affect us, your friends, so directly, we
expect that you will consult with us in advance. Atmar
specifically asked that we report these concerns to
Washington.

3. (S) Ricciardone reminded Atmar that while we were
ending our funding for the PEF, we had stated publically that
we have no objection to any GIRoA eradication programs it may
wish to continue. We were simply re-directing our
counternarcotics support to more effective purposes, i.e.
interdiction of the processing and trade in opium and heroin.
Atmar agreed that it is important to focus on going after the
major narco-traffickers, and requested support to create an
intelligence-led counternarcotics police force. He stressed
that intelligence exploitation and intelligence sharing with
the Afghans are critical tools in forming an effective
anti-narcotics strategy. But, he emphasized that eradication
efforts are also an important symbol of Afghanistan,s
overall anti-narcotics policy and laws that the U.S. should
not dismiss. This country must have a credible eradication
force to enforce the law, Atmar said. He plans to raise
this issue during SRAP,s next trip to Afghanistan. We
welcome focused discussions on this new policy, Atmar said.
Meanwhile, he urged, Please say nothing that will give our
farmers the idea that the pressure is off, or that the U.S.
does not care about poppy cultivation, otherwise we will see
an explosion in production, and we do not want that.

4. (S) Atmar was passionate about counternarcotics
programs, reminding us that he has worked this issue for the
last 15 years. He said that in order to succeed, Afghanistan
needs technical capacity - with an emphasis on standing up an
intelligence-led counternarcotics police force, mentors, and
operational funds. He urged that training Afghans to support
all levels of counternarcotics, especially in intelligence
collection and analysis, would be significantly cheaper for
the U.S. than hiring contractors to do this work.

5. (S) We advised Atmar that he could re-direct the 600
member U.S.-trained and equipped PEF to more useful immediate
purposes. Nonetheless, Atmar insisted that he would continue
to use PEF for eradication. He would also expand PEF into a
special force designed to pursue major narco-traffickers. In
order to fill immediate needs, with the poppy harvest now
over, Atmar said he would use the PEF to provide security for
elections and for ISF fuel convoys.
EIKENBERRY

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