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Cablegate: Embassy Urges the High Office of Oversight (Hoo) Leaders To

VZCZCXRO2729
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #3986/01 3441507
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101507Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3910
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003986

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP STAFF, SCA/A, AND INL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KJUS KCOR AF
SUBJECT: EMBASSY URGES THE HIGH OFFICE OF OVERSIGHT (HOO) LEADERS TO
TAKE DECISIVE STEPS TOWARDS REFORM

1. (SBU) Summary: Coordinating Director for Development,
Assistance and Economic Affairs, Ambassador Anthony Wayne, met with
leaders of the High Office for Oversight of Implementation of the
Anticorruption Strategy (HOO) on December 8 to discuss future reform
and restructuring of the HOO and its legal foundations. The
Ambassador expressed the need for a more independent and empowered
anti-corruption authority for Afghanistan. HOO officials receptive,
but emphasized the importance of any new changes being presented as
Afghan proposals. At a press conference organized the next day in
recognition of International Anti-Corruption Day, HOO Director
General Mohamed Yseen Usmani called for reform of the HOO, and
requested international assistance in establishing an oversight
element. End summary.

BACKGROUND: CONSENSUS AMONG INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS IN AFGHANISTAN
THAT REFORM OF THE HOO IS NEEDED
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2. (SBU) Background: International donors in Kabul have devoted
significant time and energy over the past three months to discussing
the appropriate form and function for an improved and strengthened
anti-corruption authority in Afghanistan, a conversation that gained
momentum with the statements of the Secretary of State and U.K.
Prime Minister before the Presidential inauguration. While some
Kabul delegations, particularly United Nations agencies, are
skeptical of the need for wholesale restructuring, there is general
agreement among many diplomatic missions, including the U.K. and
U.S., that the current HOO does not have sufficient authority,
independence, or capacity to effectively lead anti-corruption
efforts in Afghanistan. There is general consensus that the current
HOO law needs significant revision to better define corruption and
give greater powers and independence to the HOO, and that an
international board should be appointed in some capacity to help
oversee and direct the operations of the HOO.

3. (SBU) In addition to the empowered international board, the U.K.
also advocates for a name change, that will demonstrate their new
authority while keeping their small momentum and capacity. Embassy
Kabul has actively participated in these discussions and largely
concurs with U.K. proposals. Post's recommendations on HOO reform
will be transmitted septel. End background.

EMBASSY URGES INDEPENDENCE AND INTERNATIONAL OVERSIGHT
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4. (SBU) Coordinating Director for Development, Assistance, and
Economic Affairs, Ambassador Anthony Wayne, met on December 8 with
Professor Mohammed Yasin Usmani, Director General of the HOO, and
Ershad Ahmadi, Deputy Director General. Sepideh Keyvanshad of the
Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
also participated in the discussion as did USAID anti-corruption
advisor. The objective of the meeting was to present the
expectations of the USG and other donors for a truly independent
anti-corruption agency that includes international participation.
The meeting was in anticipation of a press conference the HOO held
on December 9 to mark International Anti-Corruption Day, and a
December 15-17 national conference on anti-corruption.

5. (SBU) Ambassador Wayne presented the following expectations
regarding the future of the HOO or a follow-on institution: 1) a
robustly independent anti-corruption body with investigative powers
and advisory role on prosecution, along with firm benchmarks/targets
that cannot be manipulated; 2) an oversight advisory board for that
body that includes international experts and has a strong role in
appointments and direction; and 3) a comprehensive legal foundation
supporting all anti-corruption efforts by a fully empowered
anti-corruption body. He also highlighted that although an
anti-corruption office is a key player in the fight against
corruption, the U.S. recognizes that the overarching institutional,
legal, and procedural architecture must also be strengthened as well
as law enforcement institutions. Greatly improved public financial
management and auditing, for example, as well as strong law
enforcement institutions (reftel) are essential elements of this
architecture.

"LET AFGHANS TAKE THE LEAD"
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6. (SBU) Director General Usmani received these points positively
and agreed that the HOO, in its present form, is not effective for
meeting the challenges of combating corruption in Afghanistan. He
recognized the need for complete reform, including independence and
much-strengthened powers. He also affirmed that the recent
statements by the Secretary of State, U.K. Prime Minister, and U.S.
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan have created the
space for proposing transformative changes in Afghanistan's
anti-corruption body and efforts. He stated that Afghans are happy
about these statements, as they are also with the fact that the U.S.
is interested in this very important issue.

KABUL 00003986 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) The Director General indicated HOO officials have been
considering similar ideas as they have encountered the challenges in
their first year of operation. They have identified the need for a
truly independent body that can be protected from undue influence;
the potentially helpful role of an international advisory board that
would also include representatives of civil society and the media;
and the need to further define the resource and structural needs of
such a body. At the same time, the Director General stated that he
needs to study the ideas further and would have to carefully examine
the legal requirements for establishing such a body quickly and for
creation of an advisory board. He noted, for example, with regard
to the possible powers of an advisory board, that the President
would need to concur in senior appointments to a reformed
organization and an advisory board.

8. (SBU) Most importantly, the Director General emphasized that
these need to be seen as Afghan initiatives, not ideas imposed by
internationals. He agreed that his December 9 speech would endorse
the general principles, but that the best time to present a more
detailed set of proposals with regard to transforming the HOO into a
more effective anti-corruption body would be the upcoming national
conference on December 15-17 in Kabul. Usmani said he did not
foresee objections from the President to his proposals, though he
predicted possible resistance from the Attorney General's office,
given that proposed changes to HOO include greater investigatory
powers and an advisory role on prosecutions.


INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY PRESS EVENT
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9. In the December 9 press conference, organized the next day in
recognition of International Anti-Corruption Day, HOO Director
General Mohamed Yaseen Usmani called for reform of the HOO, and
requested international assistance in establishing an oversight
element. His speech endorsed legal and institutional reforms to
strengthen the fight against corruption, and requested civil
society, the media, and the international community "to establish an
advisory board to support the existing institutional framework and
ensure transparency and improve the fight against corruption." He
said he would present several of these proposals for the overhaul of
the HOO to President Karzai prior to the conference, including the
idea of an advisory board including substantial international
participation.

COMMENT: BABY STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
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10. Comment: The meeting with HOO officials was an important first
step to show the U.S. is committed to a significantly transformed
anti-corruption authority in Afghanistan. At the press conference
the following day, HOO officials demonstrated their commitment to
undertake many of the steps recommended by Ambassador Wayne. On
December 15-17, the HOO will host a national conference on fighting
corruption to include international participation. These modest
steps suggest that the facets of the Afghan government are currently
heading in the right direction. However, we caution that
transformation of the HOO is just one of many initiatives that the
Afghan government will need to undertake, with legal authority and
in good faith to make a measurable difference in fighting
corruption. End comment.

Ricciardone

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