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Cablegate: Afghanistan Scenesetter for Codel Inouye

DE RUEHBUL #3177/01 2810856
O 080856Z OCT 09 ZDK




E.O. 12958: N/A

1, (SBU) SUMMARY: Embassy Kabul and I warmly welcome CODEL
Inouye to Afghanistan. Even as the political situation
remains in flux pending the Presidential election outcome,
Embassy Kabul, ISAF/USFOR-A and our international partners
are working with the Government of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and
entities across Afghanistan to disrupt, dismantle and defeat
al Qaeda and its extremist allies. We are facilitating a
rapid increase in the size and capability of Afghan security
forces in order to establish a sustainable, indigenous
capability for providing security -- and thus the requisite
conditions for improving governance, promoting the rule of
law, developing the economy, etc. -- throughout the country.
The ANA predicts its numbers will reach 134,000 by October
2010 and GIRoA is planning for its police force to reach
160,000 by October 2013. A GIRoA-led process to identify
"pilot districts" in which the government, donors and Afghan
and coalition security forces collaborate to clear, hold and
develop local areas is in the nascent stages.

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2. (SBU) In the midst of widespread security challenges,
Afghanistan must also establish conditions for
self-sustaining economic growth and strengthen its fiscal
regulations and practices so that it can develop a healthy
business environment, eliminate corruption and reduce
dependence on foreign aid over time. On the development
side, we have shifted our focus to projects designed to
create jobs and are supporting GIRoA efforts to increase
domestic revenues, increase budget transparency, and grow a
cadre of capable, functional civil servants hired on the
basis of merit. Our new counternarcotics strategy focuses on
interdicting high-level processing and trafficking targets
and the systems that support them, and creating incentives
for farmers to turn to licit crops. The July creation of
Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) positions in the East
and South has strengthened civil-military coordination, a
priority for this Mission. The SCRs coordinate the work of
all U.S. civilian personnel in his/her region and ensure that
civilian and military assets work together to advance our
strategic goals. END SUMMARY.

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Complex Security Situation and Mission Strategies
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3. (SBU) The security situation in Afghanistan has
deteriorated over the last two years. You will have heard
that a bomb blast occurred just this morning (October 8)
between the Ministry of Interior and the Indian Embassy.
Attacks decreased somewhat during Ramadan in
August-September, but, partly because ISAF and USFOR-A are
increasingly targeting insurgent sanctuaries and safe havens,
have again reached about 400 per week -- their highest levels
since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. At the same time,
Karzai's government suffers from an inability to deliver
essential services, compounded by endemic corruption,
political intimidation, poverty, criminality, the continuing
insurgency and ethno-tribal politics -- all exacerbated by
three decades of war and misrule since the Russian invasion
of 1979. Nevertheless, there are numerous Afghans, including
those who have returned from abroad, who are dedicated to
rebuilding their country. The energy and ambition of Afghan
youth are particularly striking at the burgeoning university
campuses. Nevertheless, the Afghan government and people
await President Obama,s decision on a strategy for further
U.S. engagement here.

4. (SBU) Against this background, ISAF continues to pursue a
counterinsurgency strategy, centered on protecting the
population and reducing civilian casualties -- objectives key
to Afghan popular and government support for all we do. At
the same time, ISAF is working to provide the security
necessary to enable the complementary and growing civilian
programs designed to help strengthen Afghanistan's society
and government. Our Mission is coordinating with GIRoA, ISAF
and other international partners to rapidly increase the
quality and size of the Afghan National Security Forces
(ANSF). The Afghan Army is growing by more than 2,500 per
month, according to ISAF,s Combined Security Transition
Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A), who project troop strength of
134,000 by October 2010. The Ministry of the Interior is
planning for a 160,000-strong police force by 2013, although
Interior Minister Hanif Atmar cautions that this remains a
planning figure. Vigorous reform programs are also underway
to reduce help corruption, especially within the Afghan
National Police (ANP).

5. (SBU) Outside Kabul, coordinated U.S. civilian-military
efforts focus on strengthening local government and
measurably improving the delivery of basic government

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services. Our goal is to help support more visible,
effective and honest governance at the sub-national level,
with well-functioning links to the center. Particular
programs include integrated civilian-military Brigade Task
Forces, PRTs and District Support Teams. We are supporting a
new GIRoA-led process to identify a limited number of "pilot
districts" in which GIRoA, donors and Afghan and coalition
security forces would collaborate to clear and hold areas
where the Afghan government is unable to provide basic
services and ensure population security. We will then
implement development projects based on self-identified
community needs. We work with traditional leadership
structures and with those who have proven themselves ready to
cooperate with the constitutional government and abide by the
rule of law. Lack of local consensus, traditionally weak
connections between the capital and provinces, distrust and
long-standing personal, ethnic and tribal rivalries, as well
as the presence of insurgents or criminals, complicate our

6. (U) New Senior Civilian Representatives (SCRs) positions,
created in July for Regional Commands (RCs) East and South,
have brought increased management, direction and oversight to
civilian officers working in the field, and have strengthened
civil-military cooperation. Planning is underway to create
additional SCR positions in RC-West and RC-North. The SCR is
the U.S. civilian counterpart to the RC military commander;
s/he coordinates the work of all U.S. civilian personnel in
his or her region, ensuring that civilian and military
capabilities are working together to advance our strategic
and counterinsurgency goals. We plan to establish similar
positions in the North and West.

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Elections Still Unresolved
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7. (SBU) Afghans are still awaiting the results of the
August 20 Presidential elections. On September 16 the
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced preliminary
presidential election results with incumbent President Hamid
Karzai in the lead at 54.52 percent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah at
27.75 percent and Ramazan Bashardost at 9.2 percent.
Continuing challenges include resolving issues related to
charges of widespread fraud, conducting a limited recount,
and completing a separate independent process to adjudicate
numerous election-related complaints. Slim odds still favor
a first-round victory for Karzai but the outcome is far from
certain; some random sampling of the 3,498 polling stations,
ballots will be audited by the ICC/EEC (Electoral Complaints
Commission) because of questionable results. We had publicly
cautioned that these would not be perfect elections, but
stressed that we expect they will represent the will of the
majority of the people. What ultimately matters is whether
the Afghan people accept the electoral outcome and whether
the new president forms a capable and honest cabinet that
will help the new administration deliver services to the
people. We expect that during your visit the IEC will
determine, and might also announce, whether there will be a
second round in the presidential election process.

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Little Momentum on Taliban Reconciliation
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8. (SBU) Many Afghans welcomed President Obama,s March 27
and Secretary Clinton,s July 15 commitments to work with
local leaders to promote reconciliation with Taliban who
renounce al-Qaeda, lay down their arms and show they are
willing "to participate in the free and open society
enshrined in the Afghan Constitution." Nonetheless,
reconciliation with Taliban or other insurgent leaders
remains controversial and difficult. Many Afghans welcome
the possibility of reduced violence and greater stability,
while others (non-Pashtuns, women, and some civil society
groups) fear an intra-Pashtun deal that could come at the
expense of their interests. Some fighters who might
otherwise be inclined to reintegrate are concerned that the
U.S. may withdraw from Afghanistan leaving them vulnerable to
reprisals from radical Taliban. We expect the new Afghan
administration, regardless of leadership, will make
developing a comprehensive reintegration program a priority.

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Strengthening the Economy
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9. (SBU) Due in part to the long years of conflict,
Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the

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world, and is facing spending increases that are outpacing
revenue year-over-year. Heavy spring rains boosted
agricultural production in 2009, however, yielding bumper
wheat, vegetable and fruit crops. This, along with growth in
the services sector, has spurred projected economic growth
for 2009-2010 to about ten percent. Inflation is under two
percent, and the Afghan currency is stable. Relatively
young, dynamic and reformist Ministers of Finance, Commerce
and Agriculture are taking positive steps to improve the
business climate, and we are encouraging the government to
implement major economic reforms to support private sector
development. Afghanistan's key economic challenge is to
establish conditions for self-sustaining growth and
strengthen fiscal policies and practices so that it can
develop a healthy business environment, eliminate corruption
and reduce dependence on foreign aid over time.

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Fast-Tracking our Assistance and the Longer Term
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10. (U) Within this economic climate, our approach to
foreign assistance is focused on increasing our effectiveness
and establishing a genuine partnership with GIRoA to benefit
the Afghan people. We are supporting GIRoA efforts to
increase domestic revenues, increase budget disbursement and
transparency and grow a cadre of functional civil servants
hired on the basis of merit. We are shifting our focus to
projects designed to create jobs, including by promoting
agricultural productivity, alternative livelihoods,
infrastructure development, education and vocational
training, capacity building, good governance and the rule of
law. At the national level, more U.S. assistance is being
channeled through the Afghan government's core budget. The
increased numbers of civilian and military in the field will
allow us to partner with sub-national officials and extend
the reach of the GIRoA to district levels. We are shifting
our assistance to smaller, flexible and faster contract and
grant mechanisms to increase decision-making at the more
local levels. A coordinated civilian-military coalition and
an effective U.S. regional counterinsurgency strategy will
provide the necessary secure space within which assistance
efforts can operate. We are also encouraging local
procurement initiatives so monies spent will more directly
benefit the Afghan economy and people, and allocating
resources by region and sector to support stability and build
Afghan government capacity. For example, USAID
infrastructure activities in the south and east currently
employ 26,000 Afghans in the power, water and transportation

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Narcotics: Positive Trends, Challenge in the South
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11. (SBU) The September 2 UN Office for Drug and Crime
(UNODC) Opium Survey indicated that poppy cultivation
decreased by 22 percent this year (following a 19 percent
decrease in 2008), while production decreased by 10 percent
(the difference accounted for by higher yields). The number
of poppy-free provinces has risen from 18 to 20; all of the
provinces in the Northern region are poppy free for the first
time in almost a decade. Nevertheless, Afghanistan still
accounts for 90 percent of the world's opium, and poppy
cultivation remains a serious problem in the troubled south
and west, where six provinces account for 97 percent of the
country,s poppy crop. The fight in Afghanistan is not
merely about narcotics, but stemming the narcotics trade will
be key to breaking the narcotics-financing chain to the
insurgency and combating endemic corruption.

12. (SBU) Our new counternarcotics strategy moves away from
costly eradication efforts that have yielded limited results
and alienated large segments of the population. We are now
going after high-level processing and trafficking targets and
the systems that support them, and creating incentives for
farmers to turn to licit crops. Our agriculture programs
give farmers easier access to permanent alternatives to poppy
cultivation; our development programs provide incentives for
local communities not to grow poppy. DEA will expand its
presence from 9 to 70 agents, and INL will increasingly shift
its focus to supporting greater interdiction efforts. We are
also increasing our public information efforts to educate
communities about the risks of growing poppy, the
possibilities of alternate livelihoods and the dangers of
addiction. Similarly, we promote the rule of law by helping
build Afghan law enforcement institutions, prosecutorial
services, courts and corrections systems.

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Gaining Traction on Gender and Human Rights
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13. (SBU) A thin but outspoken stratum of Afghan society
increasingly is giving voice to a desire for positive
political reform and social change -- reflecting the outlook
of a young but determined demographic in this
conservative society. There have been recent improvements in
legislation protecting women, and in the period running up to
the Presidential elections there was unprecedented coverage
of candidate debates, fora and interviews, widening the
content and quality of information available to the public.
Nonetheless, other aspects of Afghanistan's human rights
record remain poor, including violence and discrimination
against women, lack of due process and weak rule of law, and
intimidation restricting the exercise of free speech. In the
face of powerful conservative religious and tribal
patriarchal traditions,
the Afghan government has shown a lack of sustained will to
press forward a systematic campaign to promote and protect
human rights, particularly women's rights.

14. (SBU) Civil society campaigners for gender equity,
however, have an impact far beyond their low numbers and
offer hope and inspiration for the future. Most of our
Afghan civil society interlocutors say the process which led
to reform in the published version of the Shia Personal
Status Law (SPSL) is a step forward in advancing women's
rights, but several articles in the SPSL still contradict
Afghan women's constitutional right to equality. Most
believe the law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women
is a strong law that will protect women's rights. The
Women,s Commission in Parliament is currently working with
international and Afghan legal experts as well as civil
society to further strengthen the law.

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15. (SBU) To properly implement our strategies to improve
responsiveness in Afghan institutions and local capacity, we
require an increased U.S. civilian presence alongside the
increases in U.S. military personnel. In August 2009, the
Mission had 470 U.S. civilians in Afghanistan, including 159
in the field; we anticipate reaching 944 civilian positions
by the end of the year, of which 380 will be in the field.
The new civilians will join various State Department and
USAID elements, Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors and
the FBI (Legal Attach), the Departments of Agriculture,
Treasury, Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation (DOT) and
Health and Human Services (HHS/CDC), as well as the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA). In Kabul, we are helping Afghans
create a merit-based, professional bureaucracy, and building
its capacity to deliver services to the public. Strong
ministries include Foreign Affairs, Defense, Public Health,
Education, Finance, Communications, Rural Development,
Counternarcotics, the Independent Directorate of Local
Governance and the Afghan Central Bank. The Interior,
Agriculture and Finance Ministries enjoy strong leadership,
while the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice,
confronted with a complex legal system that combines
sometimes inconsistent elements of Sharia, tribal, and
Western law, suffer from the acute lack of qualified

16. (SBU) Our efforts to double the U.S. civilian staffing
complement and acquire the requisite expertise have resulted
in immense administrative and management challenges,
including recruitment, hiring, clearing, training, funding
and orienting personnel, as well as providing workspace and
life-support requirements. We also face growing difficulties
in recruiting local staff in certain specialties, as there is
great competition for the small pool of well-qualified
candidates. We have acquired a 7.5-acre parcel of land
adjacent to the East side of the Mission compound and are
continuing to press for more property, both in Kabul, and in
Mazar-e Sharif and Herat, where we plan to open consulates.
While the Afghan government is cooperative, political
uncertainty has delayed finalizing and implementing
agreements, including leases for Mazar and Herat.


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