Cablegate: Seven More Ministers Approved -- Ten Rejected

DE RUEHBUL #0131/01 0161515
P 161515Z JAN 10

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EO 12958 DECL: 01/16/2019


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

1. (S) Summary: The Afghan Lower House (Wolesi Jirga - WJ) has voted to accept 7 of 17 Cabinet nominees presented in President Karzai’s second tranche of candidates. The Parliament has not yet decided if it will recess until mid-February, or continue until the new Cabinet is complete. Presidential Palace Chief of Staff Daudzai told us January 12 that this was the desired outcome -- a political calculation to allow Karzai to back out of campaign promises with traditional powerbrokers. The political winners of the vote include Pashtun and Tajik conservatives and jihadis, as well as a Counternarcotics Minister associated with the drug mafia. Meanwhile, neither the two strongest female candidates nor any of the Uzbek and Hazara candidates passed muster. Many MPs claimed they voted down candidates because they were “weak nobodies,” connected to warlords, did not offer sufficient significant “donations” to their 2010 Parliamentary elections campaigns, or due to ethnic affiliations. End Summary.

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WJ Votes on the Second Tranche of Cabinet Nominees
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2. (U) On January 16, the WJ voted to approve seven of 17 Cabinet nominees presented in Karzai’s second tranche of candidates. Ten nominees were rejected. Some ministerial candidates, like the MRRD Minister, gained exactly the minimum 113 votes required, while the Counternarcotics Minister received the highest number of votes at 162. Of a total of 249 MPs, 223 were present for the vote. The Literacy Ministry was not included on this latest list because Karzai has not formally created the new ministry and the WJ has not approved it. The President decided to keep the Martyred and Disabled as part of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. Four more positions that require confirmation but have not yet been submitted are the heads of the intelligence service, the Central Bank, and the Red Crescent Society, as well as the Attorney General. These positions are traditionally submitted after the completion of the ministerial approval process.

3. (U) Those candidates approved in the second tranche included the Foreign Affairs Minister, Justice, Hajj and Religious Affairs, Economy, Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), and the Labor, Social Affairs and Martyred Minister. Vote tallies and short biographic notes are in paras 10 and 11. The Parliament has not yet decided if it will recess until mid-February, or continue until the Cabinet is complete. They will meet again on January 17 and will likely decide at that point.

Palace: “We Wanted Them To Be Rejected”

4. (S) Presidential Palace Chief of Staff Omer Daudzai told D/Ambassador Ricciardone January 12 that the palace purposefully introduced weak candidates associated with some of the traditional powerbrokers so that the Parliament would reject them. Daudzai only expected about five nominees to pass. He claimed this approach allowed Karzai to back out of campaign promises to some of these former warlords, and instead, nominate more candidates that were loyal to Karzai. Daudzai claimed Karzai had asked him to refrain from campaigning for ministers, and that Karzai was pleased that the tone of the powerbrokers in meetings to discuss cabinet nominations had already “improved” since the first cabinet list, as the warlords were more willing to accept Karzai’s suggested cabinet nominations. Daudzai believed the third list would be “stronger.”

Political Winners and Losers

5. (S) The political winners of the vote include Pashtun and Tajik conservatives, as well as a Counternarcotics Minister associated with the drug mafia. The winners also included one Afghan Millat/former King Zahir Shah candidate (Foreign Affairs), two candidates associated with former warlord and fundamentalist Ustad Rasoul Sayyaf (Hajj and Justice), one Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan candidate (Economy), and three candidates either associated with former warlords Marshal Fahim or Professor Rabbani’s Jamiat party (MRRD, Labor and Social Affairs, and Counternarcotics.) Meanwhile, the two strongest female candidates were not approved, nor were the three candidates associated with Dostum and the Uzbek Junbesh
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party (Health, Transport, and Communications.) The three Hazara candidates (Commerce, Public Works, and Urban Development) and the one pro-Iran candidate (Higher Education) also failed.

Vote Motivations Remain Numerous

6. (SBU) The WJ’s display of strength both on January 2 and January 16 no doubt reflected a variety of motives, including candidates’ qualifications, blow-back from executive dominance, political and financial gain, as well as a desire to avoid warlord candidates and certain ethnicities (reftel A). Several MPs told us this cabinet list was full of “weak nobodies” lacking the political stature to be effective ministers.

7. (SBU) The WJ also sought to assert itself after years of executive dominance, in particular in the first round of cabinet voting. At least three cabinet ministers had received WJ votes of no confidence in the past five years, yet Karzai kept them in office as acting ministers, in some cases for several years. Also, when the WJ overrode Karzai’s veto of the Media Law, which required the Executive to obtain the WJ’s approval of the head of the main government-supported media outlet RTA, the Executive sent the case to the Supreme Court and quietly had Karzai’s version approved during the busy presidential elections period.

8. (S) Understandably, MPs wanted to maximize their leverage for both political and financial gain. The cabinet approval process is one of the rare occasions when the WJ is in a position of power. MPs tell us this is the time when MPs can obtain significant “donations” to their 2010 Parliamentary elections campaigns. Al-Haj Moeen Marastyal (Pashtun, Kunduz) told us January 14 that MPs prefer second and third lists of cabinet nominees so they can receive second and third envelopes of cash. He claimed the Counternarcotics Minister was distributing to MPs record amounts, from 8,000 - 15,000 USD per MP.

9. (S) Some MPs have voted against warlord candidates, and opposed or supported others depending on ethnic affiliations. Notably, unlike in the first round of cabinet voting, some traditional powerbrokers are now attempting to disassociate themselves from the candidates. However, influential former warlord Sayyaf’s Political Advisor admitted to us January 12 that most of these candidates are in fact associated with the powerbrokers, and indeed Rabbani had his candidates, as did Sayyaf. They did not want to admit it for fear that this would cause their candidates to fail the approval process.

Short Bios And Vote Tallies

10. (S) Approved:
--Minister of Foreign Affairs Zalmay Rassoul. Pashtun. Afghan Millat Political Party affiliation, but also associated with the former king Zahir Shah’s family. Kabul. He received his Doctorate in Medicine degree from Paris, France. He is a competent National Security Advisor, although not the most influential or outspoken member of the previous cabinet. However, he is likely to perform about as well as the incumbent. He speaks Pashtu, Dari, English, French, Italian and Arabic. Yea: 132 Nay: 82 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 9
--Minister of Justice Habibullah Ghuleb. Tajik. He was nominated by the infamous Northern Alliance warlord MP Ustad Abdurab Rasoul Sayyaf, and his Islamic Call Political Party. Parwan. PhD in Sharia Law. He was nominated for the 9th Supreme Court Justice slot in 2006, but Parliament rejected his nomination. Yea: 115 Nay: 99 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 9
--Hajj and Religious Affairs. Dr. Mohammad Yusuf Niazi. Pashtun. Sayyaf’s Islamic Call Party. Nangarhar. PhD in Islamic Studies. He worked in the Justice sector during the time of the former King Zahir Shah. Yea: 132 Nay: 80 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 10
--Economy Ministry
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Haji Abdul Hadi Arghandewal. Pashtun. He is the head of the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan Party (HIA). BA in Economics. He is also currently one of Karzai’s Tribal Advisors. His exposure to the West -- he lived in the U.S. for a few years and still has family in California -- has made him a notable moderate on economic and social issues in a party whose membership gravitates to conservative Islamic beliefs. He was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s financial officer for much of the 1980s. He has modernized the party and renounced the use of violence, and broke with Hekmatyar in the late 1990s. However, many in the party base remains predominantly loyal to Hekmatyar, and he no doubt remains in some contact with him. He is perhaps the best face that HIA could put forward. He speaks Dari, Pashtu and English. Yea: 121 Nay: 94 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 8
--Rural Rehabilitation and Development Ministry Jarullah Mansoori. Tajik. He is associated with influential MP Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani and his Jamiat party according to many MPs, but Rabbani’s son Salahuddin told us January 11 that he is a candidate of Marshal Fahim. Badakhshan. MA in Political Science. Former Deputy Director in the Afghan Environmental Agency. He comes from a religious family that some local staff consider fundamentalist. We have heard from multiple interlocutors that he performed poorly at a relatively low-level position in the little known Environmental Agency. An Embassy local staff member who worked with Mansoori as an interpreter told us that Mansoori often cheated the most vulnerable; he never paid a local tea vendor he used to frequent, and even stole fuel from his modest father. Yea: 113 Nay: 102 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 7
--Labor, Social Affairs and Martyred - Amena Safi Afzali. Female. Tajik. Rumored to be associated with Rabbani’s Jamiat Party, associated with Fahim Khan and Rabbani. Herat. BA in Biology from Kabul University. She was a delegate at the constitutional Loya Jirga. Member of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. She taught Biology at Kabul University, and fled to Iran during the Russian invasion. Her husband, a well-known jihadi fighter, was killed by the Russians. Yea: 117 Nay: 94 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 11
--Counternarcotics - Zarar Ahmad Moqbel. Tajik. Associated with First Vice President and former warlord Marshal Fahim. Parwan. BA in Education from Parwan University, although many express doubt that he completed his degree. Former Minister of Interior. He was removed from office due to his reputation for ineffectiveness and allegations of corruption, according to ISAF. He is perhaps the worst of the candidates. Former Deputy Interior Minister and MP Helaludin Helal claimed to us January 11 that Moqbel was supported by the drug mafia, to include Karzai’s younger half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai and Arif Khan Noorzai. He joined the jihad against the Soviets in 1988, and later served as the Kabul police chief; he also worked at Afghanistan’s Embassy in Tehran. He speaks Dari, Pashtu and English. Yea: 162 Nay: 56 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 5

11. (C) Rejected
--Higher Education Ministry Dr. Muhammad Hashim Hesmatullahee. Kazilbash. Many MPs allege he was nominated by the Iranians; in the past he has helped MPs with Iranian visas. Shia. Kabul. BA in Literature from the Kabul University, MA from Tehran’s Tabatabai University in Journalism. He has been a lecturer at the Journalism Department at the Kabul University since 2004, and served as the head of the Union of Afghan Journalists. He speaks Dari, Pashtu and English. Yea: 100 Nay: 108 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 12
--Public Health Ministry Dr. Suraya Dalil. Female. Uzbek. Former warlord General Dostum and the Junbesh Political Party. Jowzjan. She obtained her MA from Harvard in Public Health in 2003, and is particularly dedicated to maternal health issues. She used to work with UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Organization for Migration. Many MPs told us she did not receive many votes because she was seen in the
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medio without a head scarf, while others were convinced she was a Communist. Yea: 86 Nay: 116 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 17
--Public Works Ministry Engineer Bashir Lalee. Hazara. He was supported by Khalili and Mohaqqeq. Bachelors in Construction. Ghazni. His father was a former Minister of Mines under Zahir Shah. Yea: 78 Nay: 129 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 16
--Commerce Ministry Mohammad Hadi Hakimi. Hazara. He is associated with influential Hazara former warlord Haji Mohammad Mohaqqeq and his branch of the Wahdat party. Ghazni. He received his Law Degree in Canada and his BA in International Commerce in Iran. He refused his nomination, however, on January 11 citing family issues. MPs claimed to us that in addition to his worries about losing his Canadian citizenship, he did not want to become a weak minister with two masters, Karzai and Mohaqqeq. Yea: 69 Nay: 127 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 15
--Transportation Ministry Abdul Rahim Ouras. Turkman. Former warlord General Dostum and the Junbesh Political Party. Faryab. Phd in Construction. No one in the Transportation Ministry appears to knows him, and neither do their contacts, including the Acting Minister of Transport Alami. Many MPs told us he performed poorly during the question and answer period of his approval hearing January 11. Other MPs told us he has good work experience, but it will be difficult for him to overcome the Dostum stigma and obtain enough MP votes. Yea: 87 Nay: 123 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 13
--Women’s Affairs Ministry Palwasha Hassan. Female. Pashtun. Some think she is associated with Pir Gailani. Kabul. Bachelor of Science from a University in Pakistan. MA in Post Conflict Recovery from the York University in the UK. She established the Afghan Women’s Education Center, and co-founded the Afghan Women’s Network. The Embassy considers her a very good selection -- the United States Institute of Peace highly recommends her. She speaks Pashtu, Dari, Urdu and English. Some MPs claimed Hassan did not pass because she was had strong relationships with outspoken liberal elements in the Parliament, something the former mujahadeen and conservative MPs could not tolerate. Yea: 56 Nay: 150 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 19
--Refugee Affairs Ministry Eng. Abdul Rahim. Tajik. He is associated with Marshal Fahim and influential MP Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani and his Jamiat party, although Rabbani no longer supports Rahim’s candidacy according to Rabbani’s son and several Tajik MPs close to Jamiat. This has caused Rahim to reconsider his candidacy, for fear that without Rabbani he will not get enough votes. Badakhshan. BA in Engineering from the Kabul-based Polytechnic University. He served as a representative of Jamiat for 10 years with assignments in China, Washington, and Islamabad, under Rabbani. He has also served as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Indonesia. Most criticize this selection, since he has no relevant background, but instead has an affiliation with traditional Afghan powerbrokers and former commanders. MP Helal claimed that when Rahim was the first Commerce Minister in Karzai’s government, he was removed due to corruption allegations. He speaks Dari, Pashtu and English. Yea: 82 Nay: 128 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 13
--Tribal and Border Affairs Ministry Arsala Jamal. Pashtun. Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan. Khost. Bachelor of Economics from the University of Malaya. He served as the Khost Governor from 2006 - 2008, but resigned and moved back to Canada in 2008 after the at least six assassination attempts. Canadian citizen. He was an active memberion Institute in Pakistan and Balkh University. Yea: 105 Nay: 104 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 14 EIKENBERRY
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uncorroborated rumors of corruption. He speaks Pashtu, Dari and English. Yea: 94 Nay: 116 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 13
--Urban Development Ministry Engineer Sultan Hussein Hasari. Hazara. Associated with Second Vice President Khalili and his branch of the Wahdaation of Danish Architects, he has worked on projects in Iran and Afghanistan; he has also been a visiting lecturer in these countries. Yea: 80 Nay: 128 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 15
--Communications Ministry Abdul Qadoos Hamidi. His nomination was announced on January 10. Jowzjan. Dostum and the Junbesh party. He has a Bachelors and Masters Degree from Kabul University in communications and technology. He was the Deputy Minister of Mines, and lectured at the Information Institute in Pakistan and Balkh University. Yea: 105 Nay: 104 Abstain/blank/spoiled: 14 EIKENBERRY

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