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Cablegate: Response to Coalition Strike in Kunduz:

VZCZCXRO2324
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #2760 2530955
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100955Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1404
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KABUL 002760

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO AID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV AF PREL GM
SUBJECT: RESPONSE TO COALITION STRIKE IN KUNDUZ:
"WE NEED MORE OF THIS"

1. (SBU) Begin summary: In stark contrast to the controversy in the
international media surrounding the September 4 coalition airstrike
on two tankers seized by insurgents south of Kunduz, there has been
little fallout from or even criticism of the operation locally. If
anything, the near-unanimous tone of Afghan officials in meetings
with PRT Kunduz has been "we need more of this." End summary.

2. (SBU) In a September 5 meeting at PRT Kunduz with COMISAF, the
head of the Kunduz Provincial Council, Mohammadullah Wardak, did not
mention civilian casualties, pushing instead for coalition forces to
show more toughness toward insurgents. Wardak and another member of
the Provincial Council said much the same thing in a meeting the
following day with UNAMA.

3. (SBU) At the provincial security meeting on September 6, the
Governor and the provincial chiefs of the ANP, ANA, and NDS were
unanimous in expressing support for the operation and in stating
that those killed were either Taliban or "sympathizers and
collaborators." They asked rhetorically, why would anyone go at 2
o'clock in the morning, to a place that was about 700 m away from
the nearest house? They said that, while it was possible some had
gone to the fuel tankers to siphon fuel, this amounted to looting
and was in itself a crime. According to Kunduz ANP Chief Gen. Abdul
Rizzaq, those killed in the airstrike came from fourteen villages,
some from outside the province, which he said suggested strongly
they were anti-government elements rather than innocent victims.
(Note: the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, is
investigating reports that civilians were killed in the airstrike.
End note)

4. (SBU) In a September 7 interview with German journalists, Gov.
Mohammad Omar, who has had a tense relationship with the German PRT
in the past, said no one had come forward to demand compensation,
unlike in previous incidents where innocent civilians were killed or
injured. Omar also said the authorities' estimate of total killed in
the airstrike was 60 to 72, not 100 to 200 as has been reported in
some media.

COMMENT
-------
5. (SBU) There have been very few issues on which the Governor,
Provincial Council, Police, Army, and NDS in Kunduz have all agreed,
but their reaction to the coalition airstrike has been remarkably
unanimous and characterized by a genuine enthusiasm, something which
we have not seen before when they were speaking about German
military operations. Governor Mohammad Omar, for example, has had a
tense relationship with the German PRT, yet he was absolutely
beaming with smiles when he greeted the German PRT commander at the
September 6 provincial security meeting. Part of this seems to be a
positive reaction to the German military's willingness to use force,
after years of complaints that German forces were shirking the fight
with insurgents. Afghans also appear to perceive the September 4
airstrike in a different way than past incidents involving civilian
casualties: In this case, some Afghan officials view those who may
have gone to the tankers to siphon off fuel as at least partly to
blame for what happened, as opposed to simply having been at the
wrong place at the wrong time. State PRT Officer will continue to
follow the impact of this incident on local views toward ISAF and
the U.S.

EIKENBERRY

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