Cablegate: Powerbroker and Governance Issues in Spin Boldak

DE RUEHBUL #0467/01 0381234
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 000467



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/07/2020

REF: A. (A) KABUL 463
B. (B) KABUL 408
C. (C) 09 KABUL 4039
D. (D) 09 KABUL 4024

KABUL 00000467 001.2 OF 003

Classified By: Interagency Provincial Affairs Deputy Director Hoyt Yee
for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (SBU) Summary: Spin Boldak District in Kandahar Province
and its major border crossing point to Pakistan at
Weech-Chaman have become the focus of a number of high
profile coalition efforts given the upcoming military
operations in Regional Command-South (RC-S). Although there
is a high potential for large scale revenue collections
through customs collected at the border, the lack of a
strong, capable district government has allowed powerbrokers,
especially Afghan Border Police (ABP) Chief Colonel Abdul
Razzik, to fill the void. Accused constantly of illegal
trafficking and taxing activities through Weech-Chaman (most
recently by a January 19 Washington Post article), Razzik has
been careful to maintain a cooperative relationship with the
ISAF leadership to guard his position. ISAF and USG
interlocutors walk a thin tightrope when working with this
allegedly corrupt official who is also a major security
stabilizing force. Despite Razzik's power and influence in
Spin Boldak, we will press the GIRoA to establish and empower
competent district governance to counterbalance the
powerbrokers and make Spin Boldak a profitable customs hub
within southern Afghanistan. As one of the 80 terrain
districts, we expect it to ultimately become a focus of
enhanced capacity building through the District Delivery
Program (DDP). End summary.

High Level Attention

2. (C) Reflecting the importance of Spin Boldak District to
the coalition effort, particularly in light of the military
surge in the South, COMISAF and the RC-South Commander
visited the Weech border crossing point on January 18,
arriving in Afghanistan from the Pakistan side of the border
along with the head of the Pakistani Frontier Corps. The
goal of their visit was to engage Afghan authorities on
issues related to border security, including cooperation
between the neighboring countries and ISAF convoy traffic.
Unlike the Pakistani and ISAF delegations, which were
comprised of high-level commanding officers, the Afghan
contingent was led by Colonel Abdul Razzik, Fourth Zone Chief
of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) responsible for Spin Boldak
and local powerbroker, accompanied by the weak District
Governor, Haji Abdul Ghani. No higher level Afghan
officials, political or military, were in attendance, a sign
of Razzik's apparent unquestioned -- but also unaccountable
-- authority over issues pertaining to Spin Boldak and its

Cost Benefit Analysis

3. (C) Razzik's apparent autonomy and connections to many
influential officials, including President Karzai (through
former Helmand governor Assadullah Wafa, an Achekzai kinsmen
and the president's adviser on tribal affairs) and former
Kandahar governor and mentor Gul Agha Sherzai leave him well
positioned to maintain power and influence in the district.
Additionally, he has been amenable to many of the requests
made of him by ISAF, including allowing his troops to partner
with coalition forces. Requests to which he has acquiesced
include support for interim improvements planned at the
border crossing point intended to both expedite the increase
in ISAF convoys and lay the groundwork for more efficient
customs generation. The January 18 COMISAF visit underscored
Razzik's key enabling role in this regard, and his calculated
approach to working with ISAF.

4. (C) To this end, Razzik is not obstructing coalition
requirements at the border (or throughout the district)
though his longstanding disapproval of a visible ISAF
presence in and around the crossing point during daylight
hours is well known. (Note: Razzik tells ISAF that the
reason for this is that the troops would become targets and
result in civilian casualties. However, daylight is also the
time of day when commercial traffic and money-making
opportunities are at their peak. End note.) He knows that to
reject coalition requests would be to engender unwanted ill
will by ISAF and, in the near term, there is money to be made
in labor and materials at the border and further up Highway 4
where ISAF plans to build a staging area for convoys on land
near Razzik's compound and owned by his associate. A January

KABUL 00000467 002.2 OF 003

18 meeting with MG Riley of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
provides an insight into his personal calculations: Razzik's
main talking point was concern that trucks providing
materials to ISAF in Spin Boldak were not locally-owned. It
is probably not a coincidence that he himself owns a
locally-based trucking fleet.

Abetting the Status Quo

5. (C) Contrary to the prevailing narrative of Razzik's
unchallenged authority in Spin Boldak, anecdotal evidence
paints a picture of less than harmonious dynamics within
Razzik's own Achekzai tribe with regard to the Colonel's
prominence. Razzik's immediate predecessor in the ABP, Haji
Fida Mohammad (a member of the Tribal Shura and District
Development Assembly) does not hide his contempt in public
for his nephew. One local account suggests that Razzik did
not achieve his position through a tribal consensus but that
he was thrust upon Spin Boldak by GIRoA, a view bolstered by
the Colonel's reported links to former Governor Sherzai.

District Governance

6. (C) At present, the District Government of Spin Boldak is
presided over by Haji Abdul Ghani, a Popalzai tribesman and
Karzai kinsman. The third District Governor (DG) in two
years, Abdul Ghani's predecessor reportedly was removed for
offending local sensibilities by pledging to tackle
corruption. Abdul Ghani functions in an "acting" capacity,
and recently requested coalition assistance to press Kabul to
make his appointment permanent. The DG asserts that
resolving his status will give him the necessary clout to
properly address development needs and tackle corruption.
However, the DST's experience to date with the DG does not
instill confidence that this is all that is required to
improve governance. A broader effort to empower local
authority and fill civil service vacancies will be essential
to strengthening local governance and reducing the unfettered
role of local power brokers in the area. (Note: Reported to
have little more than a fourth grade education, DG Abdul
Ghani has demonstrated to the DST that what he may lack in
managerial capacity he may make up for in other useful
character traits. In a November shura in the village of Luy
Karez, the DG challenged village elders, support of the
Taliban. As reported in reftel A, the local ABP commander
similarly confronted elders in the same shura only to be
assassinated soon afterwards. End note.)

7. (C) The other pillar of district governance is a
two-headed Tribal Shura-District Development Assembly
(Shura/DDA), dominated in equal measures by the Noorzai and
Achekzai tribes and their most assertive local leaders.
Functioning as private clubs, the bodies primarily ensure
that donor funds are monopolized by a select group of Spin
Boldak notables. The cooperation of the district's two main
tribes within this context belie the argument that Razzik,s
mediation has averted inter-tribal conflict. As Haji Fida
Mohammad told the DST in the company of fellow Achekzai and
Noorzai Shura/DDA members, "there are some who don't want the
tribes to get along," referring to his relative, the ABP
chief. Without an empowered District Government, however,
there is little check on the self-serving actions of these
institutions, which ultimately undermines equitable
distribution of development resources in Spin Boldak.

District Development

8. (SBU) One consequence of the interests and arrangements
underpinning district security is the limited reach of
development outside of Spin Boldak center (reftel A). While
security, or lack thereof, contributes to the precarious
state of many communities in the areas north and south of
Highway 4, district government staffing deficiencies and the
absence of permanent representatives from ministries critical
to district development -- specifically within the Ministry
of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and the Ministry of
Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) -- equally
hamper progress. Not receiving the services they need or the
attention they deserve from the government, citizens outside
the Highway 4 corridor, particularly in Noorzai tribal areas,
do not see themselves as stakeholders in the district's
development and thus are more susceptible to intimidation and
insurgent propaganda. Razzik regularly spins this potential
for the spread of this instability to his advantage in his
dealings with the coalition.

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9. (SBU) A number of initiatives are underway to remedy the
developmental needs of the District and the alienation of its
residents. USAID's Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased
Production of Agriculture Plus (AVIPA Plus) program, for
example, has the potential to play an important role in
revitalizing the current state of agriculture in Spin Boldak
and, thereby transform perceptions of GIRoA. A key component
in realizing these end states will be the involvement of
empowered local government officials beyond Razziq and the
Shura/DDA to enable equitable distribution of resources -- a
dynamic that does not currently exist in the district.


10. (C) Colonel Razzik's alleged involvement in the
District's illicit trafficking and illegal taxation on
transit trade has been widely reported (most recently in a
January 19 Washington Post article). His presence, however,
need not forestall Spin Boldak's progress nor should it be an
accepted excuse for continued neglect and underdevelopment in
the district. By accepting the view that Razzik is both the
guarantor of district security and the lynchpin in tribal
power relations, we potentially are overlooking steps which
could be taken in the near term to improve the overall state
of governance and development in the district, short of
removing Razzik. Additionally, by ascribing unaccountable
authority to Razzik, the coalition unintentionally reinforces
his position through its direct and near-exclusive dealings
with him on all major issues in Spin Boldak.

11. (C) As a first step in remedying the current imbalance of
power between Razzik and other GIRoA authorities, a public
and visible commitment by GIRoA to the district's citizens is
required. Attracting competent civil servants from key
ministries should be a first step. Spin Boldak is among the
80 key terrain districts and likely will be targeted for the
District Delivery Program (DDP) by the end of 2010. We will
need to carefully manage eventual implementation of the DDP
to emplace empowered, competent government personnel and the
full complement of line ministry representatives and their
respective resources. A carefully managed approach to
support the growth of a functioning district government can
lay an important foundation for improved governance with or
without Razzik.

12. (U) This message was drafted at the DST in Spin Boldak
and in Kabul.

© Scoop Media

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