Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More



Cablegate: Early Karzai Inaugural Feedback: Tribal and Women

DE RUEHBUL #3744/01 3261634
P 221634Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Twenty Afghan tribal and women leaders,
gathered in Kabul November 21, gave Embassy officers
contrasting reactions to key points in Karzai's inaugural
speech regarding security and corruption. The tribal
representatives, mainly from the East, expressed confidence
in the ANSF's ability to take responsibility for
Afghanistan's safety within five years. That group was
reluctant to blame the current government for corruption, but
the women - mainly from Kabul - insisted that Karzai take
action quickly on anti-corruption by appointing "clean,
competent ministers." The women were unwilling to predict
that Afghans could ensure their country's security in the
short term. End Summary.

Can Afghan Security Forces Take the Lead?

2. (U) We asked for reactions from the women and tribal
leaders, who met separately, to the following quote: "We are
determined that within the next five years, the Afghan forces
will be capable of taking the lead in ensuring security and
stability across the country." - President Karzai's inaugural
speech, November 19.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

3. (SBU) Both groups agreed that transferring responsibility
for security to the Afghans is an important, tangible goal.
A female law professor commented that this line in the
inaugural address was "not just the words of President
Karzai, but the hope of the entire country." A number of
tribal and women leaders drew analogies to past British and
Russian presence in Afghanistan to illustrate that only
Afghans can secure their own country in the longer term.
Participants' views coalesced around two key challenges for
both Afghans and the international community: 1) the Afghan
National Security Forces (ANSF)'s perceived lack of funding
and equipment and 2) the disruptive role of Afghanistan's
neighbors in securing and stabilizing the country. Both
groups raised the need for continued financial, military and
diplomatic support from the international community to
address these issues.

4. (SBU) The tribal leaders spoke optimistically about the
ability of the ANSF to take over security within the next few
years, as a point of Afghan honor, but stressed that more
equipment would be key. As one tribal leader put it,
"Afghanistan is no longer drinking milk but is growing up,
taking its first steps, and learning how to defend itself."
He added that that the ANSF has not achieved the status of a
national force that can protect the country, but if properly
equipped could get there "within about two years." Other
tribal representatives agreed that if the international
community spent "10-20% of the cost of foreign troops" to
supply, arm, and train the Afghan troops, ANSF could assume
responsibility for the country's security in short order.

5. (SBU) The women reached the same conclusion that better
equipment and training is crucial to successfully
transferring responsibility for security and stability, but
calculated the necessary time frame more cautiously. The
Afghan director for the Open Society Institute (OSI) was
skeptical that ANSF could take control within five years,
referencing the country's economic problems and the degree of
outside funding it would take to support the ANA and ANP at
its projected levels. Another woman said she was "hopeful
ANSF will take over security in 5 years, but the government
should not rush things," noting that a slow, responsible
process would afford the insurgency fewer "opportunities."

6. (SBU) In addition to the need for better equipment, there
was a strong consensus that NATO/ISAF forces should improve
security along Afghanistan's borders. A Nuristani tribal
leader referred to Afghanistan's "two-faced" neighbors and
said it would take international pressure on Pakistan to
achieve our shared goals. One tribal leader from Paktia
suggested all foreign forces should be used exclusively to
secure the borders, a comment the women leaders also made. A
female MP from Helmand elaborated that if foreign forces
controlled the Iranian and Pakistani borders, it positively
impact security to the degree that "nothing" would happen
inside Afghanistan.

--------------------------------------------- --
Corruption: An Afghan or International Problem?
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (U) We also asked for reactions to the following quote:
"The Government of Afghanistan is committed to ending the
culture of impunity and law-breaking and bring to justice
those involved in spreading corruption and abuse of public
property. To do this, we will require effective and strong

KABUL 00003744 002 OF 002

measures." - President Karzai's inaugural speech, November

8. (SBU) The tribal leaders overall gave this quote less
attention, speaking only in dispassionate generalities such
as the need for corruption to be addressed through appointing
"clean, good people" to government positions and improving
rule of law. The women leaders, prompted only by the
security quote, immediately moved on to corruption and
emphasized the need for a "clean, transparent government" and
"better, competent ministers."

9. (SBU) While the women appreciated the quote, they were
skeptical that Karzai has the political will and ability to
take real action, given the powerful forces supporting
corruption. One woman asserted that Karzai had "promised the
same things before and nothing happened." They individually
reiterated the need for Karzai to "do what he promised" and
stop corruption at every level. A female MP from Helmand
feared any crackdown on corruption would only punish
lower-ranking officials and not senior government officials.
While she noted that, ideally, punishing a corrupt minister
would have a positive effect on society, she was skeptical
that Afghanistan's "ineffective justice system" would
actually convict a senior official. A tribal representative
from Takhar maintained that "the same people who break the
law are the ones who wrote it," and that "those who take
bribes are the ones in powerful positions" (i.e., the reason
they get the bribes is that they are in a position to do
something for others.)

10. (SBU) Tribal and women leaders both alluded to the role
the international community plays in analyzing - and allowing
- corruption. A tribal representative from Paktia requested
the international media and governments "stop attacking" the
Afghan government and "portraying it as corrupt" because the
government could prove it was clean and competent. The head
of the Kuchi (Nomad) directorate and a female law professor
both alleged that "corrupt people were imposed on Karzai at
Bonn" when the "U.S. appointed known warlords and human
rights abusers" (Northern alliance warlords) to positions in
the transitional government. Participants in both groups
also noted that corruption is not limited to the Afghan
government, but can also be seen in donor organizations and
NGOs who received "millions of dollars with no checks and

11. (SBU) Though the discussion participants criticized the
United States for contributing to corruption, they also
suggested ways for the international community to help
improve governance. One tribal leader appeared confident
that an international conference on corruption organized by
Karzai (also mentioned in the inauguration speech) could be a
useful starting to point to seriously address corruption. A
female Afghan Red Crescent board member commented that many
competent Afghans are hired by NGOs and international
organizations, leaving only "people who just want to take
advantage of the situation" in government positions. She
recommended the international community take responsibility
for building capacity within the Afghan government. The OSI
country director implored the international community to
"impose a merit-based system on parliament and cabinet
positions" and apply serious pressure to the government
through conditionality of funding. While some organizations
and countries have already applied conditions to their
funding, this strategy could only be effective with U.S.
participation, she said.

Turn Words Into Deeds!

12. (SBU) While the women and tribal representatives agree
that transferring security responsibility to the Afghans and
ending corruption are vital goals, through their comments
they demonstrated that they will not feel confident that
Afghanistan is moving in the right direction until they see
serious demonstrations of political will - by Karzai and also
by the international community. Appointing competent
ministers will be the Afghan government's first and most
important step to show Karzai is serious about ending the
"culture of impunity." If he takes that step, the Afghan
people will likely grant him more time to focus on
eliminating corruption in other areas of government. The
Afghans are also expecting action from the international
community, including better oversight of donor funding and a
reiteration of our commitment to train and equip the ANSF to
make it ready for a new, leading role.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
World Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.