Cablegate: Helmand "District Delivery" Visit a Good Start, but It's

DE RUEHBUL #3286/01 2881458
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REF: (A) KABUL 2940

1. (SBU) Summary: A District Delivery Working Group (DDWG)
delegation visited Lashkar Gah and the Nawa District Center in
Helmand Province on October 10 and 11, holding detailed talks with
Afghan Provincial and District Officials, as well as with Lashkar
Gah PRT officers. The IDLG-led group included representatives from
the Ministries of Finance, Health, Education, Agriculture, and Rural
Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), as well as UNAMA and the
U.S., UK, and Canadian embassies and ISAF. All agreed that action
was needed to bring better support to local governance, and the
Helmand provincial officials consistently pushed for direct
assistance from Kabul to empower their line ministry departments.
The local officials argued strongly that they and their staffs were
capable of building better local governance if Kabul pushed the
resources down quickly and efficiently to the Provincial level. The
visit was informative for all parties, and follow-on meetings are
anticipated to work through staffing and financing challenges. End

Better Local Governance Needed Now

2. (SBU) Helmand Province has made real progress improving the
capacity of the provincial government under the direction of
Governor Mangal. However, governance and service delivery at the
district level is still negligible, and the lack of funding,
management, and basic infrastructure hinders those local officials
who do want to work at the district level. The District Delivery
Working Group (DDWG) was established to deal with these challenges
(see reftel), and two of six pilot districts for the DDWG are
located in Helmand. To further the initiative, representatives from
the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, ISAF, and UNAMA
travelled to Helmand Province on October 10 and 11 with officials
from the Ministries of Finance, Health, Education, Agriculture, and
Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) to see and discuss
first-hand the challenges to expanding governance and delivery of
services at the district level.

3. (SBU) In a meeting at the Helmand PRT in Lashkar Gah, the DDWG
delegation received a briefing on the work over the past months to
facilitate the establishment of district governance in six new
districts, largely through enhanced cooperation of the Provincial
Governor and provincial officials in the wake of security operations
that have allowed the expansion of governance. The missing element
in that enlargement of GIRoA presence, however, has been the
presence of supporting staff and financial resources from ministries
in Kabul. The progress in Helmand, they noted, has so far been a
"local solution" that can be replicated in other areas with
effective provincial leadership, but will remain fragile in the
absence of support from Kabul.

Mangal Takes Charge

4. (SBU) Governor Mangal, who has been tireless in his efforts to
expand governance at the district level, chaired a marathon session
with the visiting delegation on October 10 that highlighted
conflicting approaches between the ministry visitors and the local
leaders. The "top down model" advocated by the ministry officials
conflicted with the approach of local officials seeking greater
resources and decision-making at the local level. The latter argued
for more decentralization, since the bulk of ministry resources
never reach provincial offices. Helmand ministry line directors
said the current top down model consistently undercuts local efforts
at building and expanding local governance, and undermines delivery
of basic service packages at the district level as a result of the
lack of salary and program funds to deliver these services. Local
officials also noted the critical role of governance infrastructure,
stating clearly that district centers, police stations, and official
accommodation must be built or renovated to help local officials
deliver services. Helmand province has only one operational
district government center, in Garmsir; new buildings are planned
for Nawa and Kanashin but have not yet been built. At the same
time, district officials advocated for provision of basic services,
against larger more expensive packages proposed by central
government. Governor Mangal also expressed his thanks for USG
assistance and military support, as well as to other donors for
their support over the years. The Provincial office building, for
instance, was funded through a USAID program; USAID historically is
remembered in Helmand from the 1960s when irrigation systems were
built by the USG that remain today.

Nawa Elders: More, Better, and Soon

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5. (SBU) The DDWG delegation, Mangal, and two PRT officers also
travelled to the Nawa District Center - one of the DDWG's six
priority districts -- on October 11. The refrain they heard from
locals was that the government must do more, do it better, and do it
soon. Several key elders said that basic services such as health,
education, and irrigation must be established and supported by the
government. Many said they welcomed the improved security in recent
months, but told the ministry officials that the absence of
teachers, doctors and government officials in Nawa was impeding
progress. Several elders noted that government corruption was a
large problem, and one elder declared that "no one trusts the
government -- it must earn the trust of the people or they will
again look towards the Taliban" to provide basic services. Mangal
pushed back on many of the points, but it was clear the local
population wants a government that works for them, has the capacity
to establish basic - not luxury - services, and has the support from
Kabul and Lashkar Gah to sustain these efforts.


6. (SBU) The visit to Helmand was a useful opportunity for many of
the ministry officials to visit Helmand for the first time and see
district level challenges first hand. The insights gained from the
visit will inform on-going DDWG and wider discussions on the
important mechanical issues of staff recruitment, incentive pay,
program funds, funding accountability, and the respective roles of
the provincial government and district governors and councils.
Governor Mangal and his line directors' insistence on greater
provincial/district empowerment, and the need for additional
staffing and funding resources at the district level, were
important messages for the Kabul-based officials to hear as they
continue to consider how the DDWG can support a more robust GIRoA
presence at the local level.

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