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Cablegate: Residents of Khost Province Welcome 2011 Timing,

VZCZCXRO2321
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #4121/01 3560436
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 220436Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4285
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 004121

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM, INR/B
STATE PASS USAID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AF
SUBJECT: RESIDENTS OF KHOST PROVINCE WELCOME 2011 TIMING,
IF SECURITY IMPROVES

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: While the President's December 1 speech
on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan registered with some GIRoA
officials and the media in Khost province, many residents and
other government officials were not aware of it until
informed by Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)
representatives. Residents generally welcomed the
announcement of the 2011 date to begin withdrawing troops,
saying they do not want foreign forces in their country
indefinitely; however, they said U.S. forces should only
leave if security has improved. Some residents applauded
news of a temporary increase of 30,000 troops; others
believed the resources for these troops could be better spent
on Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and reconstruction
projects. End summary.

KHOST ACTING GOVERNOR: ANSF CAPACITY AND PRESSURE ON
PAKISTAN ARE KEY
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (SBU) In a meeting on December 4, Acting Governor Tahir
Khan Sabari said he viewed part of the speech on television
but had not heard much comment about its content (he does not
speak English). PRT representatives outlined main points of
the speech and provided the Pashto language fact sheet
cleared by Embassy. Sabari responded that Afghans would
welcome the announced 2011 date for beginning troop
withdrawal, on the condition that security and ANSF capacity
improve. He said anti-government forces use U.S. troop
presence as a rallying cry, thus announcing a withdrawal date
removes a key propaganda point. He opined that sending more
U.S. troops is not as important as upgrading ANSF capacity.
Sabari stressed the importance of Pakistan as a matter of
regional strategy, asserting that Pakistanis need to stop
paying lip service to eliminating Afghan insurgent safe
havens and guarantee they will not be allowed sanctuary in
Pakistan.

LINCOLN CENTER ROUNDTABLE: 2011 DATE GOOD AS LONG AS
SECURITY ALLOWS
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (SBU) The Embassy-funded Lincoln Center in Khost, which
since its establishment in April 2009 has become a hub for
&roshan fekr8*enlightened thinkers/educated
people*convened a roundtable among seven local Afghan
journalists, shura leaders, and a teacher to discuss the
President's speech and the new U.S. strategy. The common
theme: Afghans will welcome the proposed 2011 withdrawal
date, but only if the security situation improves and ANSF
capacity increases significantly. Beyond that, some
participants applauded the strategy's focus on partnership
with the ANSF and improving agriculture. Others decried
corruption draining development dollars; some expressed doubt
that the U.S. and its partners can accomplish in 18 months
what they have been unable to do in eight years. Media
participants included the local BBC stringer, Azadi
Radio,Khost Radio, Peace Radio, Caravan of Hope Radio, and
Saba TV.

4. (SBU) Khost TV, the polished and pro-government local
Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) affiliate, carried
interviews on the speech with Khost Chamber of Commerce head
Amirzai Sangeen, head of the Khost Ulema Shura Muhammad Ayoub
Hashimi, director of the Khost MedioThek office (a
German-backed educational center similar to the Lincoln
Center) Najibullah Alukhel, and writer/analyst Amirshah
Kargar. Kargar repeated an argument heard often in Khost:
the staggering sum of money spent to field U.S. troops would
be better spent raising ANSF salaries to a livable and
competitive rate, and recruiting additional ANSF. He claimed
that for the cost of sending 30,000
additional U.S. troops, the U.S. could pay to field 1.25
million ANSF, an opaque calculation that nonetheless
resonates in Khost. He also pointed out that the 2011
deadline should satisfy one of the main requirements
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has set before he will join the Afghan
government.

CONCERNS ABOUT CORRUPTION
-------------------------

5. (SBU) Colonel Sher Ahmad Kuchi, Khost commander of the
Afghan Border Police (ABP) told PRTOFFs that, while the U.S.
troop increase was all well and good, the real problem in
Afghanistan is corruption within both GIRoA and international
organizations responsible for reconstruction. Without
changing the culture of corruption, he said, people will not

KABUL 00004121 002 OF 002


trust government regardless of security efforts underway.

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) Concerns about security are not new to Khost
Province. However, U.S. forces are making progress improving
the ANSF through combined action programs that place U.S. and
Afghan forces together at every level. In addition,
corruption activities are being reported and local media
continue to bring instances of these activities to light.
The next step in the corruption fight will be successful
prosecution of a high-level case. U.S. civilians in Khost
will continue to underscore to local officials the importance
of escalating this fight, and seek opportunities to
demonstrate U.S. commitment to addressing issues that most
concern the Afghan people. End comment.
RICCIARDONE

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