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Cablegate: Effect of Siv Program On Les Staffing in Mission

VZCZCXRO3685
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #0566 0460658
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150658Z FEB 10 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5599
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC

UNCLAS KABUL 000566

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO AID FOR ASIA/SCAA

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT PGOV AF
SUBJECT: EFFECT OF SIV PROGRAM ON LES STAFFING IN MISSION
AFGHANISTAN

1. Summary: The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 allotted 1500
Special Immigrant Visas per annum for Afghan nationals under threat
who have worked for the US government for at least one year. In
addition to more general immigrant eligibility requirements,
applicants must present a letter from their supervisor confirming
their faithful and valuable service to the U.S. Government, must
have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat
because of that employment, and must receive final approval from the
Chief of Mission. Post's preliminary assessment is that many will
apply; far fewer will go. Nonetheless, the prospect of losing any
significant portion of our LES in a relatively short period will
seriously impair our ability to accomplish the critical foreign
policy objectives of our mission here. We must develop now prudent,
objective criteria for assessing what is a "credible threat" and
safeguard against this Act itself becoming a catalyst for an
immediate upsurge in allegations of threats. End Summary

2. Mission Afghanistan's 575 locally-engaged staff (437 with State,
138 with USAID) are but a fraction of the USG-employed or USG
contractor-employed Afghans eligible for the program. But in an
effort to gauge the SIV program's particular impact on Mission
operations, Post conducted a survey of 112 local employees in
January. The survey asked five questions about the length of U.S.
Government employment, the kinds of threats employees received, how
likely employees are to apply for a SIV, when an employee might
submit his or her paperwork for the program, and what percentage of
their colleagues they estimate will apply for a SIV.

3. Slightly over one-third of those surveyed have worked for the US
government for more than five years. One-third have worked for less
than one year, and another third have worked between one and five
years. Eighty percent of our employees said they were either
somewhat or very likely to apply for a Special Immigrant Visa. If
qualified, fifty-three percent said they would apply in 2010, and
42% said they would apply in 2011 or 2012. Eighty percent of our
local employees estimated that at least one third and possibly more
than two thirds of their colleagues would apply for the program.

4. Still, only 17% reported receiving personal threats, and 22%
reported threats to their family because of their employment with
the U.S. Government. More than 60% reported either no threats or
non-credible threats. Without a credible and serious threat verified
by the Mission's caseworker committee, an applicant will not receive
the necessary approval letter from the Chief of Mission. The large
gap in the survey results between those who say they will apply for
the Special Immigrant Visa program and those who report any credible
threat to themselves or their families suggests that many local
employees will apply to the program, but far fewer will actually
receive Special Immigrant Visas. It is also possible that threats
will be fabricated once the program is implemented in order to
strengthen cases.

5. The consequences of this legislation on our ability to carry out
critical foreign policy objectives could prove dire. We must rely
upon our LES for the needed continuity even more than in a normal
embassy because of our own one-year rotations, so we would be hard
pressed to cope with any significant number of SIV immigrants. For
example, if even twenty percent of our local staff receive Special
Immigrant Visas over a period of one or two years, the Mission will
face a severe challenge in recruiting and hiring successors.
Already, we lose on average thirty local staff each year because of
attrition to other employers, termination for cause, and illness. We
receive many applications for each opening, but the quality of the
applicant pool is shallow and will become more so in the years ahead
as we compete with more NGOs and private companies for the
relatively few qualified candidates.

6. Post is reviewing options and will offer recommendations within
the next several weeks.

EIKENBERRY

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