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Cablegate: Afghan Elections Situation Report Two - 1200 Local, August

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #2430/01 2311947
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191947Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0927
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 7748
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3775
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS KABUL 002430

DEPT FOR AFGHAN ELECTIONS TASK FORCE

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM AF

SUBJECT: Afghan Elections Situation Report Two - 1200 Local, August
20, 2009

1. (SBU) PRT and local media reporting suggest Afghan voters and
officials are hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.
Many voters may wait to see if violence erupts early in the day
before deciding whether to go to the polls. Yet, PRTs report
optimism in unexpected places-Kunar, for example, where 121 women
have registered to help staff polling sites. IEC has released its
final list of 6519 polling centers. The next sitrep is scheduled
for 0400 local on August 20.

---------
Security
---------

2. (SBU) Post raised at a high level the issue of the GIRoA ban on
reporting violent incidents, while private media outlets announced
they would report in spite of it. COMISAF has instructed regional
commanders not/not to distribute voting materials to districts
without an ANSF presence. In the event that local authorities
themselves distribute materials to such districts, ISAF forces will
report the grid coordinates of the districts to IEC.

3. (SBU) IEC Chairman Dr. Najafi separately told Emboffs that
delivery of sensitive materials is proceeding smoothly with no major
incidents, and he repeated his assertion that only Polling Centers
(PCs) with ANA and/or ANP security will receive materials. Emboffs
mentioned that ballots were delivered to a PC in Paktika's Azra
district, where there were no IEC employees, nor ANA or ANP presence
and that the ballots were seized by armed militia. Najafi's answer
was categorical: any materials mistakenly delivered to a PC without
ANA and/or ANP security and IEC employees will automatically be
annulled and the results will not be tabulated.

4. (SBU) IEC Chairman Dr. Najafi told Emboffs that he was not
satisfied with Global security procedures at IEC headquarters and
complained about some of the security decisions made by Global.
COMMENT: It appeared to Emboffs that Dr. Najafi did not fully
understand some of the security requirements necessary to protect
the compound and briefings would be needed to help keep him abreast
of necessary procedures. END COMMENT. Provincial reports by region
follow:

Regional Command (RC) - North

-- JOWZJAN: ANP have confirmed the murder of Jowzjan Provincial
Council candidate Mawlawi Abdul Rahim, who was pulled from his
vehicle two days ago by unknown assailants along the road between
Aqcha and Murdian districts of Jowzjan province. Rahim was an
independent candidate.

-- FARYAB: In Ghormach district, Faryab, the ANP headquarters came
under rocket attack around 6:30pm. Four ANP were killed and at
least one was wounded. This will impact ANSF's ability to transport
voting materials to the polling centers before polls are scheduled
to open.

RC-South

-- HELMAND: In a security shura convened by Helmand Governor Mangal,
UK Task Force Helmand Commanding General Radford conveyed the UK
assessment of "enormous intimidation" throughout Helmand Province,
while MEB Commanding General, BGen Larry Nicholson cited the IEC's
impressive role in preparing Helmand for the election despite
obvious security challenges. BGen Nicholson warned of the possible
use of ANP uniforms by Taliban fighters to infiltrate polling sites,
after Marines found ANP uniforms during their operations.

-- KANDAHAR: In Kandahar, threats and voter intimidation continue
throughout the province, but especially in the Kandahar City area.
Kandahar PRT received reports that insurgents visited mosques at
prayer time and warned locals not to participate in the election.
Night letters warning against voting were also distributed in the
city and its environs, while the police reported that shops began to
close this afternoon. They are not expected to reopen until after
election day. Afghan security forces report that from 1600 August
19 through the evening of August 20, they would stop all vehicles in
Kandahar City not displaying special passes allowing them travel in
the city.

-- KANDAHAR: Around 10pm an IEC attack occurred at a checkpoint near
a polling station in Spin Boldak district, Kandahar. Four Border
Police and one civilian are reported killed. An investigation is
underway to determine if the target was the polling station or the
checkpoint itself.

-- URUZGAN: Intense fighting between ISAF elements and insurgents in

Deh Rawud district of Uruzgan contrasts with the relative calm of
Tarin Kowt, where bazaars were full today. However, the Uruzgan
Principal Election Officer (PEO) reported that all election
materials have been distributed throughout the province and are in
the custody of IEC officials and either ANP or ANA officers.

RC-East

-- KHOST: In Khost province, where all voting materials have been
safely delivered to polling centers, the security chiefs have
received 157 threatening calls - 13 specifically from insurgents
threatening ANSF commanders. Several of the calls yielded useful
information and leads on IED locations.

----------------------------
Voting & Counting Activities
----------------------------

5. (U) In Farah province in RC-West, 29 polling centers in Pur
Chaman district have yet to receive election materials. Twenty-five
thousand voters are affected. ISAF will fly materials to the
District Center at first light on August 20, and is trying to
confirm that IEC can get the materials moved from the District
Center to polling centers in time for the opening of the polls.

-------------
Voter Turnout
-------------

6. (SBU) Voting materials not yet at polling centers and security
threats both have the potential to depress voter turnout. Several
provinces report insurgent threats to voters.

RC-South

-- KANDAHAR: Kandahar PRT's best estimate is that voter
participation in Kandahar province will be somewhere between 20% and
40%. Areas perceived to have better security, i.e., parts of
Kandahar City and Dand, Daman, and Spin Boldak districts, will
likely have the highest participation. PRT expects many potential
voters will stay indoors early in the day and assess the security
situation before deciding whether to vote. The PRT anticipates
meaningful female participation to be low, due to security concerns,
the influence of male family members, high levels of illiteracy
among women, and a general lack of information about the voting
process.

-- ZABUL: In Zabul, increased attacks in Shajoy (the largest
population center in the province) may deter voter turnout in that
district.

RC-East

-- KUNAR: At the Women's Center in Asadabad, Kunar the director had
registered 121 women to help staff the polling site. Locals there
and at other sites were optimistic about turnout, the candidacy of
Karzai (the provincial favorite), and the fact that these were
Afghan-run elections where their votes would count. Polling sites
were still awaiting expected IEC representatives with ballot
materials at 1700 local. In Shingal district, Night Letters
distributed the evening before were countered today by a message
from the District Governor to the mosques for people to not be
afraid and intimidated and to get out and vote.

-- NURISTAN: UNDP reports there will be no voting in Waygul,
Nuristan. ANP judge they cannot safely leave the district center to
escort materials and guard polling sites. This will impact an
estimated 12,998 registered voters from Waygul. Combined with the
August 18 destruction of election materials, reported burned en
route to Mandol district, an estimated 28% of Nuristani voters will
not be able to cast ballots.

RC-West

-- HERAT: In Herat, as of late evening, 17 polling centers are
unlikely to open - 14 in Guzara district and three in Zarghun - as
the IEC was unable to deliver election materials. However, the IEC
still hopes to open at least some of these polling sites later in
the day. In Shindand district, all polling sites have their
materials and are scheduled to open with ANA and ANP at each
location.

-----
Fraud
-----


7. (SBU) Dr. Abdullah's senior advisor Farid Zekria told us that
Abdullah has over 25,000 candidate agents registered and has had no
major problems deploying them, except for an issue in Kandahar
where, he alleges, the IEC gave the vehicle permits for candidate
agents to the chief of police who refused to give them to Abdullah's
group. Zekria said he raised the issue with local and international
authorities and believed it was going to be resolved.

RC-North

-- BALKH: Karzai's campaign manager in Balkh reported that
insurgents have warned villagers in Qoland village, Sholgara
district not to vote or to face "dire consequences."

RC-East

-- KHOST: Khost province has witnessed several incidents of voter
intimidation. In Diel Puri village (on the border of Tani and
Mandozai districts), armed men reportedly warned villagers not to
vote. There were reports of 25 rockets stored in Sebari district
that will be aimed at polling centers on August 20. Night letters
were also distributed along the Tani-Gorbuz road warning people not
to vote and indicating that anyone found with an ink-stained finger,
would have that finger cut off before they are killed.

------------
Atmospherics
------------

8. (SBU) Regional reporting from key regions and provinces follows:

RC-NORTH

-- BALKH: Governor Mohammad Atta hosted an Afghan Independence Day
dinner yesterday, attended by Abdullah's VP running mates Hamayon
Shaf Asefi (grandson of former king Zahir Shah) and Cheragh Ali
Cheragh. In a private conversation, First VP running mate Asefi
told State PRT officer that "it doesn't matter who wins as long as
there's change." He said Karzai had stooped to new depths in
allowing Dostum to return, and added that the only place that Dostum
should be allowed to travel to is The Hague where he should be
prosecuted for war crimes. Asefi said he thought Abdullah should
have participated in the last debate with Karzai and Ghani. He said
he was not aware of any talks that might be taking place between
Abdullah and Junbesh's Sayed Noorullah, who has hinted that he might
back another candidate if the election goes to a second round and
Dostum is still in Afghanistan.

RC-SOUTH

-- KANDAHAR: The Kandahar Director of Public Health reports that
Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar City has stocked up on blood and placed
additional staff on stand-by. It has also coordinated with the
World Health Organization, which reportedly is prepared to provide
10,000 basic health emergency kits in the event of mass casualties.


-- HELMAND: Governor Mangal said in a meeting with PRT officers that
during his recent meeting with Karzai in Kabul, Karzai asked him if
it was true that the Lashkar Gah PRT (meaning the UK) was paying
people to vote for Ghani. Mangal insisted Karzai was serious about
the question, which was likely planted by SMA, who blames the
British for his own removal from Helmand two years ago.

RC-EAST

-- KUNAR: Asadabad (Kunar) is ready to vote. According to the local
police chief, election security is not a problem. Visits by the PRT
officer to four polling sites - three in downtown Asadabad and one
in Shigal District - showed preparations were underway for voting.
President Karzai is the overwhelming favorite not just in Asadabad
but throughout Kunar Province. Though he is already the perceived
winner by many, they say they are voting for him because he is a
good man who has done much for the country. Though recent violence
around the country is a concern for people here, at least in the
city, it did not seem likely to stop anyone from voting.

-- ZABUL: All polling materials and staff are reported to have
reached polling centers. Provincial council candidates submitted
last minute requests to the governor for assistance in moving
political party observers to polling centers, which was denied. The
Governor, ANSF leadership, and local officials attended and spoke at
the Independence Day ceremony at the ANA camp, which featured poetry
recitals, dancing and religious sermons.


--------------
Public Affairs
--------------

X. AFGHAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS:

Election preparations were the top story in the Afghan media for
this reporting period. The IEC announced it has already delivered
80% of sensitive electoral materials to remote polling centers, with
the remaining 20% on their way, but said security concerns kept
election teams from opening polling centers in nine districts in
southern Afghanistan.

Also receiving extensive coverage was the government's decree
banning media from reporting violence on Election Day. The ban,
issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, prohibits "broadcasting
any incidence of violence" between 6am and 8pm on Election Day "to
ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people." The edict was
roundly criticized across the Afghan media; Rahimullah Samander,
head of the Independent Journalist Association of Afghanistan,
called it "unconstitutional censorship," and said Afghan journalists
would continue to report as usual.

Radio Azadi reported two American soldiers have died as a result of
an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on their patrol in
southern Afghanistan, while in a separate attack two American
soldiers were killed and at least three injured when their convoy
struck an IED in eastern Afghanistan.

Radio Azadi also reported that a tribal force captured more than a
dozen Taliban fighters during an ongoing search operation in the
Spin Ghar district of Nangarhar province. A tribal elder said his
tribe is continuing the joint operation with Afghan National
Police.

President Barack Obama's message of congratulations to the Afghan
people on their Independence Day was carried widely by the Afghan
media.

Ariana TV reported on General Dostum's reaction to expressions of
concern from the United States and the international community over
his possible involvement in human rights violations. Dostum
reportedly said the U.S. should be happy he has returned, as he is
the only friend America and NATO have, and that his coming back will
contribute to peace and stability, adding "I want to sit with my
American friends and make a plan so that, within two or three years,
we will bring peace and security to all of Afghanistan." He was
quoted as saying the United States of America and international
friends should put together a commission to investigate the
allegations and find the truth.

Shamshad TV reported that Akbarboi said he is going to file a
complaint against Dostum through the Security Council at the
International Court in the Hague.

The Elections Complaint Commission (ECC) fined Afghan state
broadcaster RTA for showing President Karzai speaking after the
official end of campaigning. Meanwhile, the IEC Media Monitoring
Commission accused several private print and broadcast media outlets
of violating the media code of conduct in the elections rules and
regulations. Outlets accused include Noorin, Tamadun, Tolo and
Shamshad.

VOA carried a live interview with Sima Samar, chairperson of the
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, on the amendment of
Shiite family law ordered by President Karzai. Samar said there are
still some technical problems, but welcomed the amendment now that
the 13th article - "It is the responsibility of the wife to prepare
for sexual satisfaction of her husband and not leave the house
without permission, unless there is need or difficulty" - has been
removed.

Radio Killid reported that Afghan police in Logar province seized a
vehicle loaded with explosives.

Radio Azadi reported that 11 insurgents, including a commander, were
killed in Uruzgan province.

Ariana TV reported that 22 polling centers in Kunduz will close due
to security concerns.

9. (SBU) MESSAGING:

Messaging remains consistent with Afghan Elections Situation Report

One. We will review and update as necessary for the next report.

EIKENBERRY

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