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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KABUL1239 2009-05-17 05:05 2010-12-02 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kabul
Appears in these articles:

DE RUEHBUL #1239/01 1370551
O 170551Z MAY 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 KABUL 001239


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/09/2019

KABUL 00001239 001.6 of 005

Classified By: PRT and Sub-National Governance Director
Valerie C. Fowler for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (U) Summary: A recent trip to the northeast by a
representative of the Embassy's Provincial Reconstruction
Team-Sub-National Governance team confirmed the presence
there of a number of the same challenges thwarting progress
elsewhere in Afghanistan. It also served to dispel a few
misconceptions about the region. Among the challenges are
poor governance and corruption. Among the misconceptions
dispelled are the notions that there are only negligible
security issues in the northeast and that development
assistance, particularly from the Germans, is readily
available to address the most pressing needs. In fact, there
appears to be a genuine threat to future ISAF resupply
convoys through Kunduz. As far as development aid is
concerned, Germans on the ground are frustrated by the limits
and constraints under which they have to operate; and funds
available from the Hungarians in Baghlan province provide
only a drop of help in a desert of need. End Summary.

Security: More Dangers than Sometimes Assumed
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) The fact that the PRT came under RPG attack
during Emboff's visit risked coloring his impressions
regarding security in the northeast; but in fact, there do
appear to be some serious security issues needing to be
addressed. Clearly the most compelling is the festering
situation in Chahar Darrah district in Kunduz. It is a bit
unnerving to realize that villages literally a stone's throw
from the main north-south road linking Kabul to the border
crossing with Tajikistan at Sherkan-Bandar are in a security
no-go area owing to the presence there of insurgent elements.
This is hardly an abstract concern, given increased
prospects of ISAF using the road as an important resupply
route. A joint ANSF/German operation in the district from
late December to mid-January managed to expel mid-level
insurgent commanders and suppress low-level fighters. Key
leaders, however, have been moving back into the district and
the PRT in Kunduz is expecting the worst this summer. As the
then-PRT commander reasoned in late March, the Taliban feel a
need to surge in order to demonstrate their reach, especially
in light of the influx of additional U.S. troops to

3. (C) Rocket attacks on the PRT and a rise in IED
incidents in the area are seen as a harbinger of things to
come. The same German commander (the position shifts every
six months) was more rigorous than some of his predecessors
in addressing the insurgent threat, sending his soldiers to
patrol in Chahar Darrah even at night. But he expressed
frustration at the unwieldiness of the German interagency
bureaucracy in Berlin that left the PRT unable to move
forward quickly with job- and income-generating projects in
Chahar Darrah at a time when, he felt, such activities could
have helped cement gains made in the December-January
operation. The increased pace of insurgent attacks in and
around Kunduz since that commander's departure have confirmed
his worrying predictions. Whether more PRT projects could
have prevented the ongoing security downturn in Chahar Darrah
is hard to say. The commander himself noted the embarrassed
reaction of local residents there at the time of the earlier
operation over the New Year period. People told the Germans
they were ashamed that international forces had had to come
to help -- that Afghan authorities were not paying heed to
their calls for help and that Afghans themselves should have
been able to address the situation.

4. (SBU) Kunduz Governor Omar shares the former PRT
commander's view on the fundamental source of the security
problem, namely the lack of jobs. Equally important in his
view, however, is the absence of a functioning legal system
capable of dispensing real punishment to malefactors. He
estimates the number of active insurgents in the province as
between 150-200 and also anticipates an upsurge in attacks
this year, as both Taliban and Hizb-e Islami seek to increase
instability for the elections and demonstrate they can and do
remain an active threat in the North. The governor further
shares the assessment that insurgents are likely to target
the expected increase in ISAF resupply convoys transiting the
province. He bemoans what he sees as the squandering of
earlier popular support for the government as a result of the
government's own inability/failure to act decisively in the
area. He suggests poppy cultivation was left unchallenged
for too long, the disbandment of illegal armed groups was not
pursued with enough vigor and ministries have failed to
coordinate among themselves or mount effective programs.

5. (C) Further to the south, ostensibly peaceful Baghlan

Kabul 00001239 002.5 of 005

Province faces a different set of security challenges. As
the head of the UNAMA office for the region tells it, even
though Baghlan generally flies under the national radar, it
actually deserves to be labeled "the wild, wild west."
xxxxxxxxxxxx, behind-the-scenes
contests for power (including on the part of the provincial
chief of police); the influence of local strongmen and former
mujahedeen (particularly in northern Baghlan); unchecked
poppy cultivation in Andarab district; underlying
Tajik-Pashtun tensions; and criminality all combine to
undermine stability. Direct insurgent activity appears
limited, but criminal elements have fashioned links to the
Taliban. Locals have also made themselves available to
execute for-hire insurgent missions. The Hungarian PRT does
little to address any of these problems. They are not
permitted to fire their weapons except in self-defense, do
little more than patrol the main roads and undertake no
counter-narcotics activities. When two Hungarian de-miners
were killed doing their work, Budapest stopped sending mine
clearers to the PRT. When the security situation in
northeastern Bamyan Province was threatened by Baghlan-based
malefactors, it was the New Zealanders who had to cross into
Baghlan to address the problem. The PRT sees itself as
focused on humanitarian assistance and small-scale
development work. Again xxxxxxxxxxxx,
his nation's troops are looking to do their short stints in
Afghanistan and get back home unscathed.

6. (SBU) The head of the Provincial Council (PC) in
Baghlan sees one of the same factors cited by Governor Omar
in Kunduz as undermining stability in his province too )
namely the inability of the nascent formal legal system to
address people,s need for justice. In fact, he claims as
one of his PC's singular achievements its intervention to
settle legal disputes that the formal legal system failed to
resolve in a timely manner. According to the PC chairman,
one dispute over a murder had languished for 10 years but was
settled in two days once a Council member from the affected
district mediated. Another case involving a tribal killing
had been with prosecutors and the court for 18 months but was
settled in two hours with the Provincial Council's help. It
is questionable whether these cases were in fact "resolved"
in a way that met formal justice standards, but it is
noteworthy that these elected sub-national governance
officials clearly believe they have done a service to their
constituents and thereby brought the government and people
closer by their actions.

Governance ) A Weak Reed

7. (C) The governors in Kunduz and Takhar provinces are
hardly among the country's strongest. While Kunduz Governor
Omar certainly talks a good game, the Germans see him as so
thoroughly corrupt that they avoid all contact with him to
the furthest extent possible. This can hardly make for
optimal synchronization of security, governance and
development efforts. The PRT insists, however, that to be
seen working with the governor would seriously taint them in
the eyes of local residents. As a case in point, they
suggest their efforts to construct a bridge across the Kunduz
River into Chahar Darrah district (an obvious security
priority) have been stalled not least because of the
governor's shady dealings with the government land needed for
access to the site of the bridge crossing (the Germans also
say they had to re-bid the construction contract for the
bridge to enable a firm favored by a deputy minister at the
Ministry of Reconstruction and Development (MRRD) to come out
the winner). Governor Omar himself places a finger of blame
on the poor quality of some of his district administrators.
In other instance, however, he suggests the Independent
Director of Local Governance,s (IDLG) emphasis on education
qualifications has saddled districts with officials ignorant
of the important local social networks and power
relationships. He complains as well about his lack of funds
and argues that the inability of some line ministries in
Kunduz to spend their full allocations from Kabul exacerbates
the problem. The Kunduz PRT's German development advisor had
high praise for the activities of USAID's Local Governance
and Community Development (LGCD) program in the province but
noted the lack of a civil service training institute in
Kunduz, the most important city in the northeast.

8. (C) While Takhar Governor Ibrahimi may check the Uzbek
ethnic box, he appears to have little else going for him, at
least judging by a desultory 90-minute meeting he gave to
Emboff. Despite evidence to the contrary, according to the
governor his province has virtually no major challenges,
aside from the inadequacy of international development

Kabul 00001239 003.2 of 005

assistance. He suggested that, thanks to his own efforts as
well as those of NDS and ANP and the cooperation of local
elders and religious leaders, security in the province is
good and insurgents are "under control;" weapons have been
surrendered in fully half of the province's districts; women
play an active role, including in government service; the
Governor makes special efforts to press district
administrators working under him to respect human rights; and
anti-corruption efforts are underway. He dismissed reports
of weapons smuggling through the province as inaccurate and
blamed what he admitted is some heroin and opium smuggling on
the existence of an active drug market across Takhar's border
in Tajikistan. According to the German PRT in Kunduz,
Ibrahimi's extortion schemes are netting him $40,000 a month
from Takhar residents.

9. (C) If there is a bright spot in governance in the
northeast, it may be Governor Barakzai in Baghlan. While it
is still early days, xxxxxxxxxxxx sees Barakzai as a breath of fresh air. While the
provincial chief of police reportedly ran roughshod over
Barakzai's predecessor, the new governor has put the ANP
chief off balance (it may help that Barakzai brought with him
to Baglan his own bodyguard force). For the moment, the
governor appears to have co-opted the police chief as well as
the local NDS head, is gaining in prestige among the local
movers and shakers and has even gone some distance in
quieting unease among the province's large Tajik population
over his appointment (he is a Pashtun).

10. (C) Comments by some key international stakeholders
raise doubts that UNAMA's local operations are likely to
contribute much to turning around the situation on governance
in the region. The German PRT in Kunduz reports that the
local UNAMA office has little to offer, in contrast to
UNAMA's facility in Maza-I Sharif. As the PRT sees it,
UNAMA's Kunduz office does not coordinate or align donors,
has no humanitarian assistance officer and has failed so far
to provide much needed district mapping for Chahar Darrah
district. In Baghlan, where UNAMA placed three people late
last year, xxxxxxxxxxxx goes so far as to label
UNAMA's role in the province "just a joke." He takes aim
particularly at what he suggests is a failure by local UNAMA
staff to exercise a coordinating role. In UNAMA's defense,
the head of UNAMA's regional office in Kunduz notes that
personnel reinforcements are in the pipeline. She points in
particular to the upcoming addition of a governance unit,
with two additional international staffers.

Development: No Pockets are Deep Enough

11. (U) Three of the four provinces of the northeast enjoy
something of an advantage in having as their "patron" the
Germans, who see their mission as development-focused.
Germany currently channels 130 million euros a year in
assistance to Afghanistan, with 60 percent of this going to
the three provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan, as well
as to Balkh (home of the German-led Regional Command North).
Of those three northeastern provinces, Badakhshan receives
the largest share because of its greater needs. The Kunduz
corridor also comes in for a fair share of the funding, with
Takhar receiving the least. The German Development Agency
(GTZ) does, however, maintain an office in Taloqan, Takhar's
capital. The Germans are seriously considering
rehabilitating and paving the direct road link between Kunduz
and Mazar-e Sharif over the next few years, at an estimated
cost of 54 million euros for the 60-mile stretch. They were
instrumental in getting EC funding for the rehabilitation of
the major irrigation system along the Taloqan River in Takhar
and are putting 1.6 million euros into repairing the adjacent
Khanabad I power station (damaged in the war).

12. (U) Such large-scale projects, rather than the quick
impact projects that were once a staple of the German PRT in
Kunduz, are sought increasingly by the local population. But
even for smaller projects, the PRT has tried to better target
local desires and needs by establishing a special Provincial
Development Fund (PDF). Each of the three provinces in the
PRT's area of responsibility is awarded 800,000 euros a year
in projects approved by an eight-member panel composed of
four Germans and four Afghans, including representative from
the respective Provincial Councils and governors' offices.

13. (SBU) Despite their best efforts, the Germans in the
field in the northeast are frustrated by the cumbersomeness
of their own government bureaucracy. As the Kunduz DEVAD
explains it, back in 2003 the Berlin ministries with a stake
in development assistance worked out an agreement defining
the specific sectors to which assistance would be directed.

Kabul 00001239 004.4 of 005

These include such areas as drinking water supply, basic
education, gender, renewable energy and provision of
technical cooperation and advice. The list did not include a
sector that is key in this relatively well-watered region,
namely agriculture; and this has come to hamper the
effectiveness of the overall effort of the PRT. It appears
all but impossible to have the basic list of priority sectors
reexamined, given the existing balance of interests between
the various German ministries. This makes it extremely
difficult for the PRT to respond to evolving, sometimes
pressing needs. This year, in what they consider a major
victory, the PRT managed to extract 500,000 euros in extra
funding from the German Foreign Ministry and the German Bank
for Reconstruction and Development (KFW) for urgently needed
projects in Chahar Darrah. None of this assistance, however,
keeps local authorities from complaining, sometimes bitterly,
about their neglect ) particularly relative to what they see
as truly massive aid being channeled to the country,s east
and south.

14. (U) Baghlan falls into that unfortunate category of
provinces stuck with the fatal combination of a fairly benign
environment and a fairly indigent PRT. The result is minimal
international development assistance. The Hungarians spend
about $30 million a year to maintain their PRT outpost. They
invest another $3 million a year in development assistance,
with $300,000 directed at infrastructure improvements (the
section of the Ring Road in the province south of Pol-i
Khumri is still unpaved). The PRT has a budget of $500,000
for civ-mil quick impact projects. The NGO Hungarian
Interchurch Aid (HIA) serves as implementer for much of
Hungary's aid.

Self-Sacrifice a Lost Virtue? Yes and No

15. (U) A visit to the Baghlan sugar refinery just north
of the provincial capital provided a window on the challenges
of reviving what little industry or processing capabilities
the country still possesses. The mill, which ran from 1929
until 1976 as a private concern, suffered like the rest of
the country from decades of war but was reopened in 2005
after being reborn as a private-public partnership. The
enterprise was capitalized at 15.6 million euros, with the
Afghan government holding a 30 percent stake and the
remainder in the hands of two German companies and four local
Afghans. The refinery first produced sugar again in 2006,
but its potential has been difficult to realize because of a
local roundworm infestation that originated in the former
Soviet Union and now covers all of Baghlan. In that year
fully 70 percent of the harvest was lost to the infestation.
The following year no beets were grown, and in 2008 only 40
hectares of the 260 hectares planted survived. And this was
only due to some farmers having planted beets as their second
crop ) the worms did not have the entire season to do their
damage. xxxxxxxxxxxx this is a tragedy for the country since it is
currently importing sugar at a cost of $450 million a year.
A possible solution would be to allow fields to lie fallow
for a time, but xxxxxxxxxxxx has been unable to convince farmers to
follow his advice.

16. (SBU) Roundworm is not the only challenge facing he
refinery. It was, notoriously, the site of an explosive
attack in November 2007 that resulted in death and injury to
as many as 75 people, including women and children. A
six-member delegation from the Wolesi Jirga's economics
committee died in the incident. Although the German
development agency (GTZ) does not generally support
agricultural projects in Afghanistan, it did come up with the
funds to make extensive security improvements to the
office/residence complex at the mill. xxxxxxxxxxxx a
continuing threat of kidnapping. xxxxxxxxxxxx has also had to hire
a local strongman as his assistant to run interference for
him with locals seeking to extort this or that advantage for
themselves from the plant.

17. (U) The problem of locals seeking immediate, personal
gain is not confined to the mill. xxxxxxxxxxxx recounts it, the
well-known cheese factory across the street from his mill
gave local farmers dairy cows to help ensure the factory
would have a steady supply of milk. Much to the annoyance of
the managers of that plant, many of the farmers instead sold
the animals. xxxxxxxxxxxx complains further that farmers have
demanded $4000 from the mill to clear their own irrigation
canals, something they traditionally have done for
themselves. xxxxxxxxxxxx suggests a simple assessment of $2 per
head among the farmers would get the job done.

18. (U) Elsewhere enlightened self-interest still has a

Kabul 00001239 005.2 of 005

place. At least this is what is reported by the Louis Berger
Group (LBG) project managers guiding the USAID-funded
construction of the 60-mile engineering marvel that is the
Feyzabad-to-Kishim highway through the Hindu Kush in
Badakhshan Province. This massive $120-130 million
undertaking is forcing a 30-meter wide highway alongside the
Mashhad River by means of major hill-leveling and blasting
works. If the Germans ultimately do decide to rebuild the
direct road between Kunduz and Mazar-e Sharif, then an
improved asphalt band will link people and commerce across
the entire north of Afghanistan, from Feyzabad in the east to
Sherberghan and Meymaneh in the west. While government and
security officials at all levels in Badakhshan have been
quite supportive of USAID,s project, the LBG engineers are
especially impressed by the readiness of farmers along the
route to give up a significant part of their extremely
limited mountainside acreage for the sake of the road.
Although GIRoA is supposed to pay compensation, project
managers doubt this is actually happening. The company
maintains two community development offices to work as
liaisons with local residents and has tried to be
accommodating, for example by allowing time for harvesting of
targeted fields and by rerouting of affected irrigation
channels. They marvel nonetheless at the goodwill they have
encountered despite the destruction of 400-500 houses, many
of which have been dismantled by the residents themselves.

19. (U) The on-site project managers point to one other
important advantage they enjoy ) good security. They had
some IEDs and rockets to deal with last year, but things are
going well now. Without good security, they say, it would be
impossible to build the road through the area's mountainous
terrain where they and their crews are often dwarfed by still
higher ground above them. The NDS licenses their protection
teams, who are made up basically of the troops of local
commanders. Another advantage of good security is their
ability to find willing Afghan subcontractors. Some of these
firms once worked in the southeast and reinvested their
earnings in the purchase of expensive road construction
equipment. Those Afghan businessmen are reluctant to work
again in those now more insecure areas for fear of losing
their equipment to insurgent attack.