Cablegate: Mobility of Civilians in the Field Mixed; Will Be Strained

DE RUEHBUL #3057/01 2740933
R 010933Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

SUBJECT: Mobility of Civilians in the Field Mixed; Will be Strained
by Civilian Increase

1. (SBU) Begin Summary. U.S. civilian personnel in the field under
Chief of Mission (COM) authority are getting off their bases and
engaging with Afghan government (GIRoA) officials and civil society
with varying frequency. Those in self-drive locations have the
greatest freedom of movement, followed by those in U.S.-led PRTs and
other installations. U.S. civilians at coalition-led PRTs that are
not self-drive face bigger challenges, given those PRTs limited
resources to support travel and the national objectives that may
take priority. The increase of civilians in the field will further
strain resources, and we will closely monitor and report whether our
COM personnel in the field are receiving the support they need to
achieve their mission. The information provided below is based on a
country-wide survey of COM personnel in the field conducted by the
Embassy from September 26-29. End Summary.

Self Drive Posts

2. (SBU) In self-drive locations, officers are well-equipped to get
off the base for meetings and engagements with provincial-level
government officials. Getting beyond provincial capitals, however,
can be challenging in provinces like Badghis, Kunduz, and Ghor.
Typically, these officers travel daily to meetings beyond the PRT.
Activities by PRT officers include regular meetings with GIRoA
officials, project oversight, and engagement with civil society.

3. (SBU) At the self-drive locations, officers often rely on
coalition partners to move beyond the provincial capital. In the
case of Ghor province, the PRT officer noted that the Lithuanians
have been providing increased support, allowing him to join them on
patrols out to the districts twice in the past three weeks. In
Bamyan, where freedom of movement is good across the Province, the
PRT officer reports visits to three districts this week with UNAMA
to undertake rule of law assessments. As part of this travel, they
will have meetings with district governors, chiefs of police,
prosecutors, local shura leaders. Similarly, in Panjshir, the PRT
officer reports no difficulty getting off the base and around the
province. Typically, though, when he travels to the districts he
drives his own vehicle with a larger military convoy.

U.S.-Led PRTs

3. (SBU) The Embassy is in the process of coordinating with ISAF a
military order that would implement the August 12 agreement (MOA)
between Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChrystal on provision of
secure transport for Chief of Mission (COM) personnel in the field.
That MOA provides for three missions per day per assigned mission
personnel at a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) or District
Support Team unless the local commander and local senior civilian
jointly agree on a revised mission plan based on security and
operational requirements. The military order under discussion would
require implementation of this agreement by all U.S. Forces. It
also would recommend that coalition partners provide similar support
to civilians based at the PRT or district level.

4. (SBU) Currently, officers based at U.S.-led Brigade Task Forces
and PRTs report movement beyond their respective bases anywhere
between two and five times per week. For example in Logar, the
civilian assigned to the Task Force reports spending a minimum of
two-three days per week meeting with various Afghan government
officials. These visits often include stopping by a new or on-going
development project with the respective coalition force unit that is
assigned to the location. He also spends about one day per week
talking with average Afghans about everyday events in their local
markets or other community gathering locations. According to other
officers at U.S.-led PRTs, this is fairly typical of their weekly
tempo of activities beyond the base. The PRT officer in Paktika,
who covers USAID programs, reports that she goes on about three-four
missions per week. As many of them require land and watershed
assessments, she often spends about 30-90 minutes walking along
irrigation canals and through agricultural areas.

5. (SBU) Travel can be challenging, however, in many cases.
Implementation of the new three trips per day requirement will
undoubtedly test the limits of what is possible given current
resources. In Ghazni, for example, the PRT officer notes that he
travels about two-three times per week, which is much less than he
would like. Limiting factors include: justifying a mission that
requires significant planning and human resources, and the fact that
many contacts do not want to be seen with coalition forces for
security reasons. In many cases, individuals and groups/shuras have
declined the offer of the PRT officers to visit them and instead
preferred to come to the PRT.

KABUL 00003057 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) The officer assigned to Task Force Warrior, based in
Bagram, notes that the real issue is not whether officers can get
out, but whether they can get out in a way that allows them to do
their jobs. She points out that the military looks at such visits
in terms of "Key Leader Engagement (KLE)," while civilians think in
terms of relationships, networking, and partnering with Afghans to
achieve common objectives. For example, she noted that a recent
visit to the Albironi Law School with the Rule of Law officer will
be meaningless unless they follow up with numerous meetings to
implement the goals discussed in this original outreach meeting.

Coalition-led PRTs

7. (SBU) In coalition-led PRTs in the South, mobility can be a
particular challenge. The unique issues of the PRT in Helmand are
reported reftel. In the Dutch-led PRT in Uruzgan, the PRT officer
reports that mobility is a major problem. The PRT officer will
travel with the Dutch this week to the Chora district for a shura on
the deteriorating security condition there, and to lend support to
the Police Chief as he announces a replacement for the district
police chief who was assassinated. He also will travel to the
governor's compound this week for a weekly security meeting. In
Kandahar, the PRT officers travelled beyond the PRT four times
during the past week for engagements with GIROA (e.g. Kandahar
Governor Weesa and the head of the Provincial Council Ahmed Wali
Karzai) and a visit to Dand district, where the Canadians have a
major district development effort underway.

8. (SBU) The USDA officer in Helmand Province highlighted the
mobility challenges faced in Helmand (see reftel). He notes that
the USDA and USAID officers travelled from the PRT only once in the
last week, which took the form of a rotary air flight to the
district of Garmsir to roll out the Afghanistan Vouchers for
Increased Production in Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus program in that
district. He lamented that the one ground movement scheduled was
cancelled due to a lack of security assets at the PRT. The meeting,
intended to focus on the Governor's Food Zone program, and
specifically how to deal with saplings and vines, ended up being
cancelled due to the inability of the U.S. officers to attend.


9. (SBU) Mobility in many parts of Afghanistan is highly
restricted, but on balance our COM personnel in the field are able
to travel and engage the GIRoA and civil society and oversee
projects in the field. The increase of civilians in the field will
undoubtedly strain resources and test the limits of the possible
under current circumstances. Embassy will closely monitor and keep
Washington informed on whether COM personnel need additional
resources or other support. Where self-drive is permitted, our COM
personnel are well positioned to continue to engage with the GIRoA
and Afghan civil society in a sustained and regular manner. In
those locations where civilians must rely on the U.S. military, the
new order implementing the August 12 MOA should bring an enhanced
level of support for civilian missions off the base. One challenge,
however, will be ensuring that civilians are given adequate
authority to shape missions that advance civilian objectives, while
still fitting into the larger operational and security requirements
at the PRT. Mobility of U.S. COM personnel at coalition-led PRTs
where self-drive is not permitted will likely remain a challenge.
We can expect limited support for such travel as long as it fits
into the national objectives and priorities of the nation leading
the PRT.


© Scoop Media

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