Cablegate: Karzai On Ansf, Cabinet, and 2010 Elections

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O 160957Z DEC 09

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EO 12958 DECL: 12/15/2019

Classified By: Ambassador K. Eikenberry reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (S) Summary: President Karzai reiterated to Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Eikenberry on December 14 his commitment to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) development, Interior Ministry (MOI) reform, and to obtaining sufficient security force recruits and training. Although Karzai’s reported cabinet picks appear generally positive, he is still considering Ismail Khan for Energy and Water. He told us that a few months’ delay in the 2010 Parliamentary elections is necessary and that he is considering holding a Loya Jirga afterwards. End Summary.

Karzai Focused on ANSF

2. (S) In a meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, Ambassador Eikenberry, Defense Minister Wardak, Presidential Chief of Staff Daudzai, National Security Advisor Rassoul, Deputy National Security Advisor Shaydah, Presidential Press Spokesperson Houmanzada, and Afghan National Army Chief of Staff Bismillah Khan on December 14, President Karzai appeared relaxed although admittedly tired and in need of a vacation. Karzai said he planned to take three or four days vacation in Europe between conferences in London, Munich and Davos. He appeared more helpful and committed to ANSF development than ever, expressing interest in obtaining sufficient recruits to reflect geographic and ethnic balances, and a commitment to establishing a training timeline.

3. (S) Defense Minister Wardak said Army recruitment was improving; last month’s return of 873 formerly AWOL soldiers to their units was a promising sign. Admiral Mullen noted that the 2011 drawdown date was not a political decision, but rather, a U.S. military recommendation. Karzai said that if the Afghan government was over half way to the 2011 ANSF recruitment and training goals, it would be a success. (Comment: Although Karzai was clearly attempting to manage expectations, he also seemed to be personally vested in this endeavor -- a positive, and relatively new development. End Comment.) Karzai said he will have his Defense Minister and Chief of Defense, “on the road frequently” to ensure this project moved forward.

4. (S) Karzai inquired whether ANSF expansion would include only an increase in training, or also an increase in more sophisticated military equipment for Afghan internal defense. Admiral Mullen said the United States would continue to equip the Afghan forces for counter-insurgency operations, since the territorial defense was not currently a priority, especially considering the U.S. strategic defense relationship with Afghanistan. Wardak further noted that more heavy weapons were need for the ANA over time to increase their capability to defend themselves, and could also be used to fight the Taliban. Admiral Mullen responded that Afghanistan’s military requirements will naturally evolve over time, but emphasized that heavy weaponry was not needed at present.

5. (S) Ambassador Eikenberry mentioned how successful the 2003 Ministry of Defense (MOD) reform was to this institution, noting that the 2006 MOI reform was neither as comprehensive nor as successful. President Karzai agreed, and noted -- characteristically -- that this was due to the failures of UNAMA, the United States, and the E.U. When Eikenberry noted the serious problems in the senior MOI leadership, Karzai acknowledged this was also an important issue. He preferred, however, to work on MOI reform with the United States, not the E.U. or UNAMA.

Non-U.S. NATO Troops Can Stay Home

6. (S) Karzai asked if the other NATO countries were committed to sending 7,000 non-U.S. NATO troops, and if so, would those numbers be several contributions of 100-200 troops, or larger commitments by a fewer countries. He remarked that if the commitments are small contingents from many nations, it would be more of a “headache.” He quipped that if these countries only announced their plan to deploy additional troops, without actually sending them, it would be easier. Admiral Mullen noted the political significance of these troop commitments, despite the challenges they might entail. Admiral Mullen asked Karzai for his assessment of NATO ISAF efforts to limit civilian casualties. Karzai responded that General McChrystal was doing an excellent job
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with his instructions to limit civilian casualties because of the emphasis he placed on restricting the use of aerial bombardments. However, he said more needed to be done with the Special Operations troops, noting recent reports from Laghman Province of civilian casualties during two separate operations.

Skepticism on Pakistan

7. (S) Karzai expressed concern over Pakistan, noting that the Taliban may decide to lay low there until 2011. Admiral Mullen replied that if the Taliban decided to give that security space to the Afghans, it would be to our advantage, as it would allow time for the ANSF and security to be built up sufficiently to defend themselves. Karzai appeared to accept this answer. Ambassador Eikenberry emphasized that the United States shared Afghan concerns over Pakistan providing sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban, but noted Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi had stated publicly at the recent IISS Manama Dialogue in Bahrain that there was an Afghan-Pakistani Taliban nexus -- a possible signal of an evolution in their thinking. He also stated, however, that Pakistan was focused, at present, on its greater threat, the Pakistan Taliban. Minister Wardak said he had received contrary reports that the Pakistani Army was helping the Afghan Taliban obtain sanctuary in cities “deeper into Pakistan.”

Cabinet Selections

8. (S) President Karzai told Eikenberry after Admiral Mullen’s departure, with FM Spanta and NSC Rassoul in attendance, that he still had no date for his cabinet announcement but that he had asked the Parliament to remain in session for the time being. He plans on giving Parliament about 75 percent of the cabinet list and expects Parliamentary support for “almost all” of his nominations. He said the National Security Ministers would stay on (reftel), as well as the Finance, Commerce, Communications, Agriculture and Health Ministers.

9. (S) Karzai said the current Higher Education Minister Dafur would be replaced by the current Governor of Kabul Zabihollah Mojadedi, or an unnamed senior university official. Education Minister Wardak would move to the Palace’s Office of Administrative Affairs (OAA), while MRRD Zia would be given an ambassadorship and his deputy Wais Ahmad Barmak would replace him. He said he would appoint a technically qualified individual as the Minister of Mines, and that Nangarhar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai would be given a position involving the construction of roads in urban areas (Note: it was unclear whether this would be Urban Planning or a new position. End Note.) Karzai said the Ministry of Public Works would go to a qualified engineer with a masters degree from a prestigious U.S. university, while Transportation would go to Junbesh party’s Batash (rumored to be a Dostum ally).

10. (S) Karzai invited the group’s views on placing Commerce Minister Shahrani in the Ministry of Mines. Spanta’s endorsement was lukewarm; Ambassador Eikenberry noted Shahrani’s extravagant home, suggesting that the Afghans knew best who is corrupt, a concern Karzai shared. Karzai claimed he would split the Ministry of Information and Culture into just the Ministry of Culture and “downgrade” information responsibilities to an agency. He said he wanted Spanta to stay on, but Spanta said he was not interested in a cabinet-level position. Karzai said Jalali was a possible choice for NSA, but claimed that he insisted on keeping his $13,000/month National Defense University salary. Eikenberry responded that if this were the case, it hardly seemed like a sign of patriotism. Karzai said Atmar was politically “hanging on by a thread” because he was highly disliked for his former communist and excessively pro-Pashtun reputation.

11. (S) Karzai said Ismail Khan was still his choice for Minister of Energy, claiming that Secretary Clinton “agreed to a compromise” after Karzai promised to keep Atmar and appoint competent deputy ministers under Khan. Ambassador Eikenberry countered that Secretary Clinton did not endorse Khan -- underscoring that the United States has indicated that Energy and Water is a key U.S. development priority, and that our policy was not to invest in ministries not competently led. Eikenberry added that during his Congressional testimony, all members of the U.S. Congress expressed great concern over the long-term costs of Afghanistan, especially during the current financial crisis.
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If incompetent and corrupt ministers were appointed, it would provide a good reason for them to limit funding. The Ambassador urged Karzai to consider the tradeoffs, and make a decision on what would most benefit the Afghan people and their economic future. He should worry less about pleasing political factions or foreigners, and more on the objective long-term interests of his citizens. Karzai said he would further consider this choice.

2010 Elections

12. (S) Karzai mentioned that the 2010 District Council elections could be postponed past 2010, but the Parliamentary elections should only be delayed three to four months. In response to the Ambassador’s concerns about addressing the unsustainable electoral calendar that would eventually bankrupt the Afghan government, Karzai replied that he would like to hold a Loya Jirga sometime in the fall of 2010 to resolve these constitutional issues. He referred to “conspiracy theories” he had heard about the international community’s intentions in delaying the elections that Eikenberry flatly rejected. The Ambassador said the Afghans would have to make the decision whether to delay the elections or not.

13. Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not clear this cable.

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