Cablegate: Laghman: Alingar, Allihang Villagers Express Support For

DE RUEHBUL #2367 2280508
R 160508Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. Villagers in areas of reported anti-Afghan forces
(AAF) activity expressed support for the August 20 presidential and
Provincial Council elections. A large shura in Alishang District,
at which the provincial governor and police commander spoke,
appeared to be a notable success, with speakers calling on residents
to support the national and provincial governments. End summary.

2. (SBU) On August 4 the Mehtarlam Provincial Reconstruction Team
(PRT) supported the holding of a shura (tribal council) in Watangatu
village in the Alishang District, an area reported to have AAF
elements actively discouraging locals from participating in the
upcoming elections. Governor Lutfullah Mashal and several other
high-ranking provincial officials attended the event, including
Afghan National Police (ANP) Provincial Commander General Omeryahr
and Afghan National Army (ANA) Colonel Mohammed. Participating
locals numbered about 300, and included attendees from more than ten
surrounding villages. Officials said the shura was one of the
largest government-supported shuras ever held in Laghman.

3. (SBU) The general mood of the audience was quite positive, with
numerous elders saying their residents intended to vote. No
expression of support for any particular candidate was made,
although several speakers urged locals to meet and debate the merits
of the various contenders. Several speakers were enthusiastic about
the strengthening of the local and provincial governments, and
recognized the importance of the elections for that purpose. Locals
asked the governor and ANP commander for increased security, and
requested help in resolving local disputes, including some violent
clan feuds.

4. (SBU) On August 6, the PRT visited two small villages in Alingar
District, areas also reportedly frequented by AAF forces. Each
village was home to an estimated 300 to 400 families.

5. (SBU) In the first village, the PRT spoke first to several dozen
male residents age 18 to about 30. They all said they intended to
vote, although they did not indicate which party or candidates they
preferred. Shortly thereafter, the PRT was approached by a small
group of much older men, who proclaimed themselves to be the elders
of that village and another neighboring settlement. In an impromptu
shura of approximately 12 elders, they indicated that they supported
the elections, and claimed that "all" adult males and females in
their villages had registered. Those interviewed knew where their
polling place would be located. The (very) small village store had
several posters for provincial council candidates displayed. No
anti-government slogans or other symbols were on display.

6. (SBU) Asked about the village's needs, elders asked for a
piped-in water source, and for the paving of the road to their
village. Although they knew the name of their provincial council
representative, attendees claimed that he had never visited them,
and seemed to have little idea of whom they could contact in the
provincial government to make requests for water and road

7. (SBU) There was somewhat less activity in the second village,
which had no store and fewer adult males in evidence. However, the
villagers referred the PRT to an individual they identified as the
village headman. That individual received the PRT cordially, and
conducted a small shura with the PRT and a cluster of about 20
locals under the shade of a tree outside his residence. Treating
the attendees to tea and snacks, he said that his village intended
to participate in the elections, and claimed that all male and
female adults had registered to vote.

8. (SBU) Just like the residents of the first village, the headman
said that he had no contact with the provincial council, but said
that campaigners for council candidates had been through the area.
He expressed gratitude for the efforts and sacrifices of "foreign
friends" and enmity for those "bad people" who encouraged locals not
to support their national government.

9. (SBU) Comment. Other sources have indicated that AAF activity
and threats against locals and against the election are very real,
and the villagers' support for the elections and the Afghan
government may not be as simple as they would appear to be.
However, the evidence of campaign activity, the locals' knowledge of
the election process, and their willingness to engage with the PRT
would seem to be evidence at least that AAF forces do not completely
control the area or the actions of its residents. End comment.

10. (U) This cable has been reviewed by PRT Mehtarlam Commander
Lt.Col. Ungerman.


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