Cablegate: Afghan Border and Tribal Affairs: Minister In

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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Acting Minister for Border and Tribal
Affairs, Arsala Jamal, says he is attempting to transform a
demoralized and weak ministry into one that will play an
important and creative role both in developing the poorer
border regions and in encouraging reconciliation and
reintegration. He describes his primary challenges as lack
of human capacity (both in the ministry itself and in the
provinces), poor information technology and communications
capability between the ministry and its agents, and minimal
inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation. He has asked
for assistance in developing a professional cadre of civil
servants, training and mentoring for one civil servant to
improve interagency coordination and communication, an
embedded advisor, and funding in support of the new Khushan
Khan secondary school campus, established for the benefit of
students from the poorer border regions. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Deputy Pol-Mil Counselor, Human Rights Officer and
Border Coordinator met with Jamal 2 February to discuss his
vision of his portfolio and to clarify the purview of the
Ministry of Border and Tribal Affairs. Jamal explained that
the ministry was originally established 84 years ago to
maintain security in the border areas around the Durand Line
and to counter attempts by its eastern neighbor to interfere
in Afghanistan affairs. Today, responsibility for border
security has clearly devolved to other ministries, in
particular, the Ministry of Interior and its fairly new
Afghanistan Border Police. The Ministry of Border and Tribal
Affairs is viewed as having been sidelined and is now
considered primarily a social affairs ministry. Jamal
recognizes the weaknesses of the ministry and the vagueness
of its mandate, but appears determined to carve out a niche
for himself and the ministry. First, he says he wants his
ministry and its provincial agents to serve as liaison
between the tribes and the central government, eliciting
tribal needs, occasionally advising the tribes on what they
should ask for, and trying to meet those needs equitably.
Second, he argues that his ministry should be directly
involved in the GIRoA reconciliation and reintegration
3. (SBU) Jamal clarified that while in its early history the
ministry was focused almost exclusively on the Durand line,
currently it has responsibility for social development in all
border areas and among tribes on the northern and southern
border. He added that, unfortunately, most of his provincial
agents are concentrated on the central and south eastern
border, and some provinces remain unstaffed.
--------------------------------------------- -------
Bridge Between the Central Government and the Tribes
--------------------------------------------- -------
4. (SBU) Although the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of
Health, and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and
Development have responsibility for providing to the citizens
of the border areas schools, health services, and
infrastructure, Jamal thinks that his ministry and its agents
in the provinces can ensure that the tribal needs in these
areas are met and that their requests for improvements in
their villages are informed and effective. He complained that
Ministry of Border and Tribal Affairs provincial agents do
not sit on or even participate ad hoc in the provincial
development committees. Their participation would not only
inform them of the types of projects being considered, but
would allow them to convey to the committee what the tribes
really need. He also said that he wants to ensure that the
Ministry provincial representatives travel and meet more
frequently with the tribes.
--------------------------------------------- -
Reintegration, Reconciliation and Defense: It takes a Village
--------------------------------------------- --
5. (SBU) Jamal seemed eager to insert his ministry into the
reintegration and reconciliation process. Young men in the
poor border areas, especially the east, are prime candidates
for the Taliban. If his ministry can help improve
infrastructure and provision of services and increase
economic opportunity in the tribal areas, not only will it
deter young men from joining the insurgency, but it will also
help create a sense of village solidarity against the
insurgents. Non-ideological young men currently with the
Taliban will begin to see that there is more opportunity in
the village than with the Taliban.
6. (SBU) While agreeing that schools and clinics and wells
are important, he pointed out that each village may have
different needs that once met can increase stability and
security. He suggested that &a village fund8 could help in
some cases. When asked if there were not a risk that corrupt
village leaders would keep the funds for themselves, he
dismissed the idea. He admitted that if two tons of flour
comes to the village, some leaders may provide a little more
for their families ) this is considered normal ) something
that everyone would do; but village scrutiny will ensure that

KABUL 00000454 002.2 OF 002

leaders cannot take it all, and they would be obliged to make
sure that everyone in the village is taken care of. In the
village, unlike in Kabul, everyone can see what happens, and
this transparency limits the scale of diversion of
--------------------------------------------- ------------
Request for Support for the Secondary School for Rural
--------------------------------------------- ------------
7. (SBU) Jamal showed himself very proud of the new
facilities being developed for the Khushan Khan school for
rural students. The new campus will sit on 18.5 acres in
Kabul and will serve both as class rooms and dormitory for
students coming from the various border areas. According to
Jamal, many of these are students who cannot attend school in
their home villages because of security concerns. Currently,
only three of some dozens of buildings have been completed.
Jamal said that the Ministry of Education is responsible for
the establishment of the facility, but his Ministry is
responsible for selection and accommodation of the students.
He asked whether the U.S. might be able to help in some way
support the students or the development of the new
facilities. (NOTE: We promised to discuss Khushan Kahn with
USAID and get back in touch with him.)

The Need for Inter-ministerial Cooperation
8. (SBU) Jamal readily admitted that his ministry is not
directly involved with hard security or border management and
that he has not seen any coordination with the Ministry of
Interior or Ministry of Finance (for customs issues) or even
with ministries such as Education or Rural Rehabilitation and
Development which would normally be most involved in services
and infrastructure for the border areas. He stressed the
importance of improved coordination, but said that lack of
human capacity was an impediment. He said he hopes that he
can create a position within his ministry expressly to
coordinate with other ministries that deal with the border
and asked for U.S. mentoring/assistance in setting up the
position, specifically and embed adviser.
9. (SBU) We noted that the GIRoA Office of the National
Security Council (ONC) had recently played an important role
in coordinating different ministries to deal with the
cross-cutting issue of banning ammonium nitrate in
Afghanistan. (NOTE: Ammonium nitrate is the primary raw
ingredient used in home made explosives for IEDs that have
killed thousands of Afghan civilians as well as Coalition
Force and Afghan National Army personnel. The successful ban
of its use in Afghanistan is a success story for the Afghan
Government. See Septel END NOTE)
Biographical Information
10. (SBU) Minister Jamal speaks excellent English with a
perceptible, but slight accent. Although reports say that he
is a Canadian citizen, he admitted only to having paid a
&short visit8 to Canada. He visited one brother who lives
in Phoenix, Arizona, and referred to another who lives in the
UK. He grew up in Paktika province. When he was a youngster,
his village had no school and opposed, on the basis of
&tradition,8 sending boys ) much less girls -- to school.
Nevertheless, Jamal,s father, one of the prosperous men of
the village, sent him and his brother to a neighboring
village for schooling. Jamal expressed sympathy for women,s
rights, schooling for young girls, and fighting corruption,
but he was doubtful that progress in these areas could be
made quickly.

11. (SBU) Jamal has some clear ideas of the role he wants to
carve for himself and his ministry, but the ministry itself
currently plays a negligible role in the border areas.
Ministries such as Finance, which holds the customs portfolio
as well as the government purse, and Interior, which is
responsible for border management up to fifty miles inland
from the border, will be preeminent in defining a
Comprehensive Border Strategy from the security perspective.
Others, such as Commerce and Industry and Rural
Rehabilitation and Development, will be important planning
and implementing the economic development of the border
areas. Jamal seems committed to the idea of
inter-ministerial cooperation, however, and, because the
Ministry has at least a formal remit to work with on tribal
issues throughout the country, we will further explore
reintegration issues with him.

© Scoop Media

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