Cablegate: The New Cabinet: Better but Not Best
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #4070/01 3531621
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 191621Z DEC 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4178
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 KABUL 004070
EO 12958 DECL: 12/19/2019
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: THE NEW CABINET: BETTER BUT NOT BEST
Classified By: Ambassador Ricciardone reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary: President Karzai sent most of the cabinet list to the Parliament on December 19 with the notable exception of National Directorate for Security (NDS) Chief Saleh. Although we judge many of the ministers are acceptable and qualified, this list represents only a modest upgrade in Karzai’s cabinet talent. It appears Karzai chose ministers based on compromises between the wishes of the international community and the traditional powerbrokers to whom he is beholden to, including Dostum, Mohaqqeq, Ismail Khan, Fahim Khan, Khalili and Sayyaf. Despite the promises to former President (and Abdullah backer) Rabbani, Karzai gave him no positions - increasing the possibility of a more powerful opposition. End Summary.
2. (U) First Vice President Fahim Khan announced the following list at the Parliament on December 19: REMAINING:
--Defense - Abdul Rahim Wardak. --Interior - Mohammad Hanif Atmar. --Finance - Mohammad Omer Zakhiwal. --Communication - Engineer Amirzai Sangin. --Justice - Sarwar Danish. --Education - Ghulam Farooq Wardak. --Water and Energy - Al-Haj Mohammad Ismail Khan. --Women’s Affairs - Hosun Bano Ghazanfar. --Public Health - Dr. Sayed M. Amin Fatimie. --Agriculture - Asif Rahimi. --Parliamentary Affairs - Mohammad Anwar Jekdalek. --Counternarcotics - General Khodaidad.
--Economy - Dr. Anwari Al-Haq Ahadi. --Culture - Sayed Makhdum Raheem. --Higher Education - Obaidullah Obaid. --Commerce - Ghulam Mohammad Elaqi. --Transportation - Dr. Mohammadullah Batash. --Haji & Islamic Affairs - Enayatullah Baligh. --Public Works - Engineer Mirza Hussain Abdullahi. --Mines - Wahidullah Shahrani. --Rural Rehabilitation & Development (MRRD) - Wais Barmak. --Labor and Social Affairs - Mohammad Ismail Munshi. --Border and Tribal Affairs - Hamid Gailani. --Refugees - Enayatullah Nazeri.
--Foreign Affairs --NDS --Urban Development
Analysis: We Can Work With Most
3. (C) The following list includes some background information on each of the selections, to include which political powerbroker supported the candidate, third-country influence (if any), or party affiliation.
--Defense - Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak (Pashtun). He was a mujahadeen commander during the Soviet occupation, and later spent over two decades in the Washington, D.C. area. He has political connections to Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani. Although some say his family has profited from defense contracts, he is considered competent and cooperative with U.S. interests.
--Interior - Mohammad Hanif Atmar (Pashtun). He earned his Master’s degree in International Relations and Post-war Development from York University in the UK. He is allegedly a British citizen, and may renounce his citizenship if pressed by the Parliament. He was a loyalist to the Soviet Union-backed government, and his leg was severely injured in an anti-government mujahadeen attack. Many Karzai-supporters do not trust him, particularly the former Northern Alliance. He maintains some political connections with former Interior Minister Jalali and Ashraf Ghani. Karzai told us in early December that “Atmar was hanging on by a thread” because many powerful former mujahadeen like Sayyaf and Ismail Khan did not trust him. The British joined us in supporting him. He is one of the intellectual stars of the cabinet.
--Finance - Mohammad Omer Zakhiwal (Pashtun). He has Canadian citizenship, and most think he is willing to renounce his citizenship if the Afghan Parliament insists. He is associated with Hezb-e-Islami, although not the
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Arghandewal branch. He is close to President Karzai and raised funds for him during the campaign, at times using methods that are not illegal here but not in concert with Western standards. We consider him a skilled technocrat who effectively promotes the economic development of Afghanistan; he is the closest of the “technocrats” to Karzai.
--Communication - Engineer Amirzai Sangin (Pashtun). He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications from the Southern London University. He belongs to the Afghan Millat party and is known to enjoy a close relationship with the Karzai family. He has a well-deserved reputation for competence.
--Justice - Sarwar Danish (Hazara). He is a prolific writer and has published fifteen books on Islamic Jurisprudence, and other legal issues. He is from Daikundi Province, and was born into a pious and religious family. He studied in numerous countries to include Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Wahdat party has told us he is the candidate of Second Vice President Khalili. We have found him approachable, competent, and relatively dedicated to rule of law and human rights.
--Education - Ghulam Farooq Wardak (Pashtun). We consider him an effective minister. However, the press reported widely that he misused his public office and power over schools to support Karzai in the 2009 presidential elections. He is beholden to the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan party led by Arghandewal, although he claims he no longer is affiliated. He is close to the President and has been an insightful interlocutor on politics.
--Water and Energy - Al-Haj Mohammad Ismail Khan (Tajik). This former warlord is known for his corruption and ineffectiveness at the Energy Ministry; the worst of Karzai’s choices. Presidential Chief of Staff Omer Daudzai told us December 17 that a strong deputy minister would be appointed and he gave us the CV of a western-trained candidate who will manage the ministry. He said some of the water responsibilities could be transferred to Agriculture as another “work around.” The establishment of a national power company had already taken away some responsibilities from this position. Our repeated interventions directly with Karzai and his supporters, including a last-minute intervention via Mojaddedi, did not overcome Karzai’s deeply personal bonds with Khan. Others think Khan is a signal to the former jihadis that Karzai still stands by them, despite international pressure.
--Women’s Affairs - Hosun Bano Ghazanfar (Uzbek). She was supported by the primarily Uzbek Junbesh political party, although they admitted that they did not think she should “count” against their promised four positions. Her performance has disappointed us and female political leaders. Her wealthy and influential family lends her political strength; they own the Ghazanfar Bank, import oil from Russia, Uzbekistan and Iran, and reportedly gave large contributions to Karzai’s campaign. She may have been supported by Dostum.
--Public Health - Dr. Sayed M. Amin Fatimie (Pashtun). He is a former doctor and enjoys the support of Upper House Speaker Mojaddedi, and the families associated with Zahir Shah. We consider him one of the most competent and effective ministers. He is a medical doctor and studied in Germany, Pakistan, and the U.S. He was a doctor and professor in various mujahedeen and international organizations during the 80s and 90s.
--Agriculture - Asif Rahimi (Tajik). We find him articulate and competent, but that he does not always deliver on his ambitious goals. He oversaw one of the most successful Afghan Government development initiatives, the National Solidarity Program. He is rumored to be associated with Sayyaf, but is close to Zakhilwal.
--Parliamentary Affairs - Mohammad Anwar Jekdalek (Pashtun). He obtained this position due to his close personal relationship with President Karzai and has proven a valuable Embassy contact. He is a mediocre minister and relatively unknown. He was a former mujahadeen and former chairman of the Afghan Olympic Committee. He survived the Serena Hotel terrorist attach by reportedly dodging a bullet by leaping into a locker in the hotel’s gym. He is associated with Fahim Khan.
--Counternarcotics - Gen. Khodaidad (Hazara) will remain for now, although Presidential Chief of Staff Omer Daudzai told Deputy Ambassador Ricciardone December 17 that this ministry would later be dissolved into the Agricultural and Interior
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ministries. He holds graduate degrees from the Indian National Defense Academy. He has been a very good partner for U.S. counternarcotics efforts.
--Economy - Dr. Anwari Al-Haq Ahadi (Pashtun). He was the Finance Minister and remains the head of the pro-Pashtun Afghan Millat party. He married Fatima Gailani, the daughter of Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani, the influential Afghan spiritual leader. He received degrees from the American University of Beirut, and later a doctorate in political science from Northwestern University. He resigned to pursue a presidential bid, but then pulled out shortly after his powerful father-in-law decided to support President Karzai instead. His run as Finance Minister received mixed reviews. He studied in Iran in the 1970s and now professes hostility to the current Iranian regime.
--Culture - Sayed Makhdum Raheen (Tajik). His family is associated with Zahir Shah. Many MPs claim he is too liberal after he was caught on television attending a dance party. He has little support, and may not receive the approval of the conservatives in the Parliament.
--Higher Education - Former Kabul University Medical School Chancellor Obaidullah Obaid (Tajik). Supported by Marshall Fahim. Reportedly competent.
--Commerce - Ghulam Mohammad Elaqi (Hazara). He was the Central Bank Chairman in the 1990s, and former Chamber of Commerce President until 2008. He was allegedly accused of corruption in 2001. His nomination was supported by Mohaqqeq, although he also has a relationship with competing Hazara powerbroker Khalili. Khalili appointed him as a secondary representative at the 2001 Bonn conference. He reportedly owns a factory in Tashkent used to export special bags made from sheep stomach that are used frequently by heroine smugglers to prevent detection. Also, reportedly he took about $1.5 million from small businessmen in Afghanistan in 1995 to open a trading company, but instead absconded with the funds.
--Transportation - Dr. Mohammadullah Batash (Uzbek). He was previously the Junbesh Party Chairman, and was one of the four names the Junbesh party gave Karzai. He is from Kunduz, and is rumored to maintain a political connection with Dostum. He received his PhD in the former Soviet Union.
--Haji & Islamic Affairs - Enayatullah Baligh (Tajik). He is from Kapisa and is an influential prayer leader at Kabul’s main mosque. He was a professor at the Kabul University. He is beholden to Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf.
--Public Works - Engineer Mirza Hussain Abdullahi. He obtained his PhD in Engineering at the University of Hawaii. He is beholden to Khalili, and supported by current Office of Administrative Affairs (OAA) Director Mudaber. According to Daudzai, he was “channeled through Mohaqqeq,” and was not one of Mohaqqeq’s original choices. His choices were ruled out because they were not qualified.
--Mines - Wahidullah Shahrani (Uzbek). He is the former Minister of Commerce, and his family is from Badakhshan. We consider him one of the most competent ministers. Although an Uzbek, he has no affiliation with the Junbesh party, according to Junbesh Party Chair Nooroolah. His father was once Minister of the Hajj. His family is close to the Karzai family, and he is a UK permanent resident educated in Pakistan and the UK.
--Rural Rehabilitation & Development (MRRD) - Wais Barmak (Tajik). He is currently the deputy in this ministry, and is associated with Marshall Fahim. Daudzai complained about this choice, noting that Barmak was Panjshiri, but he gets high marks for his management of the National Solidarity Program.
--Labor and Social Affairs - Mohammad Ismail Munshi (Turkmen). He is one of the Deputy Chairmen of the Junbesh party. He is associated with Dostum.
--Border and Tribal Affairs - Hamid Gailani (Pashtun). He is a moderate Pashtun and currently is the Deputy Speaker of the Upper House of the Afghan National Assembly. He obtains most of his political power from his respected father, Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani. Although pro-Karzai in the last election, he can be highly critical of the Afghan President. He maintains a good relationship with the Embassy.
--Refugees - Enayatullah Nazeri (Tajik). He is from Parwan
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Province and studied law and political science at the Kabul University. He was a respected civil servant and is viewed as relatively apolitical; he served in the Najibullah, Rabbani, Taliban, and the post-Bonn interim governments. He was the first Minister of Refugee Affairs from 2002-3. His nomination was supported by Fahim Khan.
4. (C) President Karzai has made no announcement about his advisors, his Chief of Staff, the Foreign Affairs Minister, NDS, the OAA, the Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG), the National Security Advisor, and the Minister for Urban Development. Presidential Chief of Staff Omer Daudzai told Deputy Ambassador Ricciardone on December 17 that FM Spanta would stay on until after the January 28 London conference; he implied that the current NSA Rassoul will likely take his place. Spanta would have a difficult time obtaining Parliamentary approval due to his dual (German) citizenship, his name on the list of corrupt officials given to the Parliament by the Deputy Attorney General on December 16, and because Spanta received a vote of no confidence in the Parliament in the past. NSA and IDLG were not announced today because those positions do not require Parliament’s approval. Daudzai said the IDLG Ministry would remain with Jelani Popal (Pashtun), who is considered to be a technocrat.
5. (C) It was unusual that NDS Saleh was not announced with the others, as both Karzai and his Chief of Staff have told us on numerous occasions that he would stay on. At one point, Sayyaf was reportedly applying significant pressure on Karzai to give the job to the previous Border and Tribal Affairs Minister Assadullah Khalid, who is exceptionally corrupt and incompetent. Karzai told Ambassador Eikenberry that a new Construction Ministry (taking functions from Urban Development and Public Works) would be created and given to the current Governor of Nangarhar Gul Aqa Sherzai. Sherzai has indicated separately to us that he plans to stay on as governor, which may be why the Urban Development Minister was left off the list. (Daudzai told us Yusuf Pashtun, a former Urban Development Minister, will become the next Minister of Urban Development.)
6. (C) The Parliament debated extensively whether or not President Karzai had the right to divide, add, or change Ministries without their approval. Lower House Speaker Yunus Qanooni and former presidential candidate Bashardost noted in the plenary on December 19 that the approval of one-third of the Parliament was required to reorganize ministerial functions according to the constitution, although after he received a call from the Presidential Palace during the plenary Qanooni said splitting ministries was acceptable. Taj Ali Saber, Karzai’s nomination for the new Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled, was not allowed to be presented to the Parliament for this reason (this used to be part of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry).
Analysis: Political Debts and Balance
7. (C) Of the selections announced to date, 13 of the 24 are holdovers. Former President Rabbani was engaged in intensive negotiations with Karzai for weeks but got none of his supporters a ministry - which may lead to a stronger opposition if he rejoins Abdullah’s movement. One UNAMA analyst noted that Rabbani’s faction had tried hardest for the two security ministries (Defense and Interior) but that Karzai had shown “strength” in keeping the two ministers in place. Karzai did not feel himself bound to a “coalition” or powersharing arrangement with Rabbani, who clearly overshot in his post-election negotiations.
8. (C) The biggest initial winners include first Vice President Fahim, who delivered significant numbers of Tajik voters and according to our estimates received five seats for his supporters. Dostum, whose Uzbek supporters pushed Karzai’s victory, comes in second with three positions. Other winners include Mohaqqeq (Karzai split the Hazara vote with Bashardost) with two; the prestigious Gailani family - 2.5 (Ahadi, Hamed Gailani’s brother in law, is “half Gailani, half Afghan Millat”); Afghan Millat - 1.5; Khalili - 1; Ismail Khan - 1; Mojaddedi - .5 (Fatimie is considered “half Mojaddedi, half the former King Shah family”); Shah Family - 1.5; Hezb-e-Islami - 2; and Sayyaf - 1. Atmar, Rahimi, Shahrani and Khodaidad were not considered to be any particular groups’ candidate, although all receive some international support.
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