Cablegate: District Delivery Program Makes Steady Progress

DE RUEHBUL #2940/01 2670452
P 240452Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. KABUL 1093
B. KABUL 2270
C. KABUL 2383

1. Summary: Over the last seven weeks, the Afghan-led
District Delivery Working Group (DDWG) has made steady
progress toward extending Afghan government services to
strategic or newly cleared districts. Major service delivery
ministries and executive agencies, together with the Embassy,
ISAF and some other international partners, have agreed on
criteria for selecting districts in six pilot locations in
the south and east. The ministries and agencies have also
produced initial assessments of their possible resource needs
in these districts. The group plans to meet next on October
4 to examine a coordinated Afghan government services
package. If this process is ultimately successful, we
believe it could serve as a model of how &Afghan first8 can
work. But there are challenges ahead: fostering coordination
among jealously independent Government of the Islamic
Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) ministries and agencies;
finding ways to get qualified Afghan personnel deployed to
the districts; and designing mechanisms able to ensure quick
yet accountable transfer of resources to the local level and
translating those resources into actual services delivered.
Septel will provide a more in-depth look at the related
District Support Team (DST) effort. End Summary.

The Context
2. In April 2009, Embassy Kabul announced plans to support
more directly GIRoA efforts to build sub-national capacity by
establishing a new platform for integrated civ-mil efforts,
i.e. District Support Teams (Ref A). The plans envision the
creation of 20 DSTs in the south and east to strengthen our
civilian presence and help district officials increase their
capacity to deliver basic services. DSTs will be integrated
civ-mil command units that include three to five civilians
from State, USAID and other agencies. Eventually they should
evolve into embedded training teams supporting GIRoA efforts.
Working closely with U.S. military authorities, State and
USAID have so far assigned at least one civilian to each of
seven of the 20 districts originally identified for this
exercise (Maywand and Spin Boldak in Kandahar; Garmsir and
Nawa in Helmand; Sarkani in Kunar; Khogyani in Nangarhar; and
Seyadebad in Wardak); as well as to five other districts
where they could add value to local governance and
development efforts. Establishment of full civilian
contingents and operations will depend on the security
situation on the ground and the availability of Afghan
government counterparts. The Afghan government is notably
absent in many difficult districts, aside perhaps from a
district administrator and police unit. We have had to
encourage GIRoA to get teams out to districts to provide a
cluster of services to the populations of recently secured
districts. This is a key part of gaining support in these
3. To address these issues, in August we and key Afghan
ministries and agencies launched an initiative called the
District Delivery program aimed at providing a much more
robust GIRoA presence along with a package of basic services
in selected &priority districts8 (ref B). By matching our
DST deployments with the District Delivery initiative, we aim
to boost both the short- and longer-term effectiveness of our
DST contributions. Therefore we have taken special care in
the pilot stage of the District Delivery program to mesh with
our DST deployment plans. At the same time, we very much
want the Afghans to lead as they move out to districts in a
new way and to gain confidence for covering more districts in
the future.
The Process
4. Since its inception on August 1, the new District
Delivery Working Group (DDWG) has met weekly to develop a
mechanism to deploy packages of government services quickly
to districts that have recently been cleared or have
strategic importance. This Afghan-led forum, launched with
our encouragement, began with participation by the Ministry
for Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD); Ministry of
Finance; Ministry of Interior; Ministry of Agriculture,
Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL); Ministry of Education;
Ministry of Public Health; Independent Directorate of Local
Governance (IDLG); UNAMA; ISAF; and the U.S. Recently, the
Supreme Court as well as the UK,s Department for
International Development (DFID) and the Canadian
International Development Agency (CIDA) have joined the
discussion. IDLG officials have encouraged the Attorney
General,s Office to take part to promote the dispatch of
more prosecutors to the field, so far without success.

KABUL 00002940 002 OF 003

District Selection
5. The most notable achievement of the group has been
agreement on criteria for selecting districts and the
identification of six pilot districts. There is agreement
that priority districts should be secured, with good
prospects for being held longer-term. They should also have
high potential for development; high potential for an influx
of governance resources to have a major positive impact on
the local population; access for Afghan officials and
relevant international partners; proximity to security
forces; cluster potential for service delivery in nearby
areas to build critical mass; and strategic or symbolic
importance. After extensive discussion within the group and
consultation with ISAF and U.S. forces, the working group
(DDWG) agreed on a pilot phase in Nawa and Nad Ali in
Helmand; Baraki Barak in Logar; Seyadabad in Wardak;
Khogyiani in Nangarhar; and Sarkani in Kunar. The DDWG also
identified several other districts with good potential that
we will re-examine later.
Governance Packages
6. Two of the greatest challenges the DDWG faces is getting
the individual ministries to identify what assets they might
contribute to governance packages and then getting them to
work with other ministries to combine these into a single,
coordinated government services package. Unlike the USG,
GIRoA does not have an executive entity, aside from the
President himself, to set priorities authoritatively and
compel inter-ministerial cooperation and coordination.
Government ministries instead tend to guard their portfolios
7. It is, therefore, remarkable that the DDWG has made as
much progress as it has in getting so many major ministries
and agencies on the same page in support of the District
Delivery program. All have managed to produce initial
proposals on what they might undertake in the pilot
districts. The submissions are of varying quality, with the
Supreme Court, for example, relying on the IDLG to help put
together its contribution. Nevertheless, the outline of an
integrated package is beginning to emerge. Over the current
religious holiday period, ministries have been asked to
refine and re-submit their submissions, which the IDLG will
attempt to meld into the first cut at a truly integrated
package, in advance of the next DDWG meeting on October 4.
8. Individual ministries and agencies face varying degrees
of difficulty in coming up with useful contributions to an
integrated package of government services. The process has
been fairly straightforward for the Ministry of Rural
Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), since its signature
National Solidarity Program (NSP) already operates at the
district and provincial levels. The difficulty has been in
getting the ministry to link its work to that of other key
ministries, rather than simply to press for additional direct
U.S. funding. The IDLG is by definition already focused on
provinces and districts but must now overcome persistent
hurdles in getting qualified people to fill its many vacant
district-level positions. The Ministry of Education has
pre-designed packages, even for difficult areas, but needs
security assurances and incentive packages to ensure enough
teachers deploy. The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) is
also accustomed to acting at the local level via its many
health care centers, which are staffed by NGO doctors funded
by USAID, the EC and World Bank. Because MOPH focused almost
solely on infrastructure needs in developing its package, the
DDWG has asked the ministry to consider what services it
could deliver with short-term impact. The Agriculture
Ministry (MAIL) is rarely represented at the district level
and insists it cannot lay out with any precision a catalogue
of planned activities until its people are on the ground to
conduct a needs assessment. On the plus side, the ministry
is recruiting 600 university graduates for field positions.
Even the Ministry of Finance is looking to play its part by
identifying additional responsibilities for its provincial
finance officers to expedite transfer of resources to the
Financing Mechanism
9. As reported ref B, the Ministry of Finance has outlined a
special funding mechanism through which the U.S. (and
potentially other donors) could transfer money to the GIRoA
core budget targeted specifically to the District Delivery
program. It has also indicated that it will work to bypass
cumbersome central ministry budgeting mechanisms and
procurement procedures to get resources quickly to the
provincial and district levels. We will work with the
Ministry to develop a responsive financing mechanism,
consistent with USG regulations, that will enable GIRoA and

KABUL 00002940 003 OF 003

district government units to deliver basic services
effectively and accountably at the district level. Note: We
are requesting separately a TDY visit by a team of USAID
experts to help us craft a funding mechanism for use of U.S.
10. If the DDWG process ultimately fulfills our
expectations, in many ways it will offer a model for future
GIRoA/donor assistance. It is a significant step forward
that these major ministries are so engaged in the process
(usually sending deputy minister-level representatives to
DDWG meetings) and have assembled initial service delivery
package proposals. We nonetheless see three challenges,
which we label &the three F,s.8 The first is formulation.
As noted, Afghan ministries do not find it easy to work
together, so getting them to come up with a single,
coordinated package of services, rather than several
individual ones, will require continued prodding and quite
possibly support from us. We see this as a necessary and
important capacity-building exercise.
11. The second challenge is fielding civil servants to the
districts. This will be difficult for a host of reasons,
most notably a lack both of qualified people and of adequate
facilities in the field. It remains to be seen whether the
ministries will succeed in attracting qualified civil
servants through incentive packages or will have to resort to
more expensive contract personnel.
12. Our final challenge involves funding. We are developing
mechanisms to get the necessary funding out to the district
level -- and get those resources translated into actual
services delivered -- expeditiously, efficiently,
transparently and accountably. This will be difficult,
because under Afghanistan,s centralized budget system,
provinces and districts are not budget entities.

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