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Cablegate: Worsening Security in Badghis

DE RUEHBUL #2737/01 2510728
R 080728Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

Reference: KABUL 02599

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Inadequate ISAF and Afghan forces and ill-advised
pre-election moves by the Karzai government are contributing to
worsening security conditions in Badghis Province. Without more
forces capable of holding ground (NATO-ISAF or Afghan) and more
progress on delivering essential government services, insurgent
attacks are likely to grow, and the provincial government will find
itself confined to an ever smaller security enclave. A province that
should be in the win column will be in danger of falling under
effective insurgent control. Ambassador Eikenberry visited the
provincial capital of Qala-e-Naw on August 27 for meetings with the
governor and other local officials, as well as with ISAF and PRT
personnel. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Badghis's problems are fueled by several pre-election moves
by the Karzai government aimed at shoring up votes but which appear
to have made conditions worse. In June, 15 prisoners arrested in
May as part of an anti-corruption investigation were released by
local authorities, after the intervention of officials reportedly
close to the president. The investigation implicated former
Governor Mohammad Ashref Naseri (current governor in Zabul
Province). The probe found evidence Naseri submitted fraudulent
expense invoices and pocketed the money. His son and line Minister
of Finance Mohammad Shah Shafiq were also implicated. None of these
three individuals were among those arrested. Shafiq belongs to the
Nahebdzadah clan, the most powerful family in Badghis. Release of
the prisoners after a professional investigation by the Attorney
General's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), working with NDS, had been
seen locally as evidence that corrupt officials can operate with
impunity. Naseri has ignored continued efforts by ACU to question
him about the case.

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3. (SBU) In July, Jalani Popal, head of the Independent Directorate
of Local Governance (IDLG), orchestrated a truce between local
elders and Taliban in the northern district of Bala Murghab. (REF A)
The agreement came just weeks after an RC-West operation had
established four new checkpoints in the Pashtun-dominated district.
Popal's agreement, which reportedly came with a monetary payment,
called on the Taliban to permit elections to occur in the district
and to support development projects and construction of the
long-stalled Ring Road through Badghis, the only province where the
road is unfinished.

4. (SBU) The day after Popal's meeting, ANA forces withdrew from the
four checkpoints. ANA 207th Corps Commander Jalandar Shah says the
Ministry of Defense ordered him to pull back, though he acknowledged
that the truce only required withdrawal from civil-occupied homes,
not from the checkpoints. The Taliban did not uphold their end of
the deal. Only eight of thirty-three polling centers in Bala Murghab
opened Election Day, and ballot box stuffing benefiting Karzai is
suspected in all of the centers.

5. (SBU) The result was a short-term gain for Karzai, but a probable
weakening of the Afghan government's real and potential support. The
Badghis insurgency has emerged with greater freedom of movement and
is continuing to press attacks into the neighboring districts of
Qadis and Muqur. In the largely-Tajik district of Jawand, local
militias reportedly are forming to protect residents against the
insurgency. Construction on the Ring Road remains stalled.

6. (SBU) ISAF and ANSF in Badghis are inadequate. Though the ANP is
well-led, it is undermanned at 1,300 policemen, against an
insurgency now estimated at over 2000. The ANA has two battalions
assigned to Baghdis, but they are poorly trained and equipped and
play a minimal role. As for ISAF, a 220-soldier Spanish contingent
lacks a maneuver component and limits its operations to escorting
aid workers and guarding the FOB/PRT and airport in Qala-e-Naw.
Spanish officers admit that insurgent activity is increasing and
that major roads to Ghormach and Herat are no longer secure, even
during the day, an observation confirmed by local leaders at a
meeting with Ambassador Eikenberry. They do not move outside
Qala-e-Naw at night. Their four-month rotations severely hamper
their effectiveness.

7. (SBU) A 120-soldier Italian contingent at a Forward operating
Base in Bala Murghab, along with a 20-person US Police
Mentoring/Embedded Training Team, conducts patrols and is more
effective. An RC-West plan to pull the Italians out of Bala Murghab
and replace them with Spanish forces is being reconsidered and a
post-election clearing operation is under consideration. Even so,
ISAF's ability at current force levels to hold areas it has cleared
is problematic, especially now that ANSF have pulled back from
forward positions. A company of the 82nd Airborne Division is due to
arrive in Badghis in mid-September to serve as police trainers. This
will help with security. But the relatively small numbers will limit
the gains.

8. (SBU) Badghis can be turned around, but it will take more
attention and resources from ISAF, then international community, and

KABUL 00002737 002 OF 002

from the Afghan government. Governor Delbar Jan Arman replaced the
corrupt former governor in March and has sought to improve
governance. The hard-working ANP police chief, General Sami, is also
a welcome addition. During Ambassador Eikenberry's visit, Arman
focused on the need for security, water, electricity and completion
of the Ring Road. (REF A) He also appealed for more police and more
ISAF operations aimed at retaking ground from the insurgents, a
stance that has strained his relations with the Spanish PRT. A
majority of the line ministers and local officials are possibly
engaged in corruption. If Arman takes on corrupt officials, he risks
driving more powerful families into the arms of the insurgency. He
knows he has little support in Kabul.

9. (SBU) WAY AHEAD: We will work with NATO-ISAF and through IDLG and
the Office of the Attorney General to lobby the Afghan government to
replace Ghaws Muhammad, the chief prosecutor in Baghdis. Governor
Arman has asked the Attorney General to have him replaced without
success. Local NDS officials have a dossier of evidence against
Muhammad and other prosecutors. Removing him would strengthen Arman
and signal Kabul is interested in good governance, the opposite
signal it sent by ordering the dismissal of the corruption case in

10. (SBU) We will work with our Spanish allies and its PRT to
determine if there are governmental or economic developmental
projects that might help make short-term contributions to reverse
the negative security trends.

11. (SBU) We will also work with NATO-ISAF, the Asian Development
Bank, and the Afghan government to explore ways to push forward the
long-stalled Ring Road project through Badghis Province.


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