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Cablegate: Helmand's Agriculture Department's Dysfunction Inhibits Coin

VZCZCXRO1019
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #3707/01 3220207
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180207Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3241
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 8115
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 5697

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003707

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM, INL/AP
STATE PASS TO AID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD
STATE PASS TO USDA
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR WILKES
CENTCOM FOR USFOR-A COS, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAGR AF
SUBJECT: Helmand's Agriculture Department's Dysfunction Inhibits COIN

1. (SBU) Summary: Demonstrating that provincial government can
deliver needed services is the cornerstone of the counterinsurgency
strategy in Afghanistan. In Helmand, given the importance of
agriculture, improving Helmand's Department of Agriculture, Irrigation
and Livestock (DAIL) is our best available opportunity to reach the
maximum number of Afghans with information and services that will
tangibly improve people's livelihoods. Despite this tremendous
opportunity, Helmand's DAIL is corrupt and dysfunctional. The USG
Inter-Agency Civ-Mil Agriculture Team on the ground in Helmand is
dedicated to increasing the capacity of Helmand's DAIL. However,
achieving a functioning DAIL requires commitment from the Kabul-based
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) to appoint
better officials, support district-based staff and place greater
emphasis on service delivery to farmers.

History of Corrupt Leadership Undermines COIN
---------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) Corruption investigations and dismissals at HelmandQs DAIL
entrench local mistrust of DAIL and GIRoA. The acting Director of the
Helmand DAIL was arrested on November 3 by the National Directorate of
Security (NDS) on charges of corruption related to a UK-funded wheat
seed distribution program. This comes less than six months after the
long-serving previous Director was dismissed under suspicion of selling
MAIL-owned land for personal profit. In this environment, DAIL civil
servants, historically trained to work in a highly centralized
organization, are left without leadership and cannot effectively
execute their responsibilities. Signaling the importance of
agriculture in Helmand, an acting Director was named within a week of
the arrest of the previous director by the Governor. This paperwork
has been sent to Kabul for the Ministry's approval.

Lack of District Presence
-------------------------
3. (SBU) All Helmand districts have funded and staffed civil service
positions for district-based DAIL employees; however, in a recent USDA
survey, all but one district reported no DAIL employees living or
working in the district. Nearly all of Helmand's district DAIL staff
live and work in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, and claim that
significant security issues make living and working in the districts
impossible. In reality, according to Helmand Governor Mangal,
employees use security as an excuse to, "sit in Lashkar Gah, drink tea
and collect their salaries." The USG Inter-Agency Civ-Mil Agriculture
Team in Helmand facilitated the return of DAIL employees to the
recently cleared Nawa and Khanashin districts, but this was
unfortunately a short-lived win, as these extension workers returned
to Lashkar Gah after short periods. In Nar-e-Saraj district, which
includes the Helmand's key commercial city of Gereshk, DAIL maintains
Helmand's sole district office, with six employees. Unfortunately,
these employees deliver few (if any) Afghan government programs to
farmers.

Low Salaries, but Little Left for Services
------------------------------------------
4. (SBU) Poor budget management and low pay severely restrict Helmand
DAIL's ability to deliver GIRoA programming and services. During the
last Afghan budget year, HelmandQs DAIL spent $25,000, only 7% of its
budget, on goods and services for agriculture producers and spent 93%
of its budget on salaries. During a USAID-facilitated DAIL employee
shura held in August, employees asked "why should they be expected to
drive out to districts when DAIL couldn't even reimburse the cost of
using personal transportation for on-farm extension work?" Helmand's
DAIL salaries are paid on the national pay scale, despite the higher
cost of living in Helmand and inherent risk to government workers in
this volatile province. Extension workers salaries average $100-$150
per month, while day laborers earn around $150 per month, and seasonal
poppy harvesting work pays up to $10-$15 per day.

5. (SBU) Comment: Helmand's DAIL has U.S. and international partners
and programs that are collaborating at the national, provincial and
district level. Helmand's DAIL, in its current form, is not currently
a reliable partner for U.S. efforts to improve agricultural production
in Helmand, and persistently demonstrates weak and ineffective
government to all of Helmand's population. Critically, DAIL's failings
are most apparent to farmers in the districts, the very population for
which GIRoA is competing with the insurgency. USG agriculture
programming, therefore, must work with whatever community-based
governance bodies are available, including District Councils and
Community Development Councils. With basic personnel changes and some
initiative from the Ministry in Kabul - especially with respect to
appointments, pay, and mandating district presence - this situation
could be reversed. Incentivizing existing DAIL district staff to
return to districts, with either a pay increase or danger pay
supplement, increased program funding for extension and delivery
programs, and appointing effective leaders should be priorities for
the Ministry in Kabul. The USG Inter-Agency Agriculture Team waits
with an open hand of partnership for the Helmand DAIL, but the
initiative to take the next step now resides in the Kabul Ministry's
hands.
EIKENBERRY

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