US embassy cable - 07KABUL2998 (original version)


Identifier: 07KABUL2998
Wikileaks: View 07KABUL2998 at
Origin: Embassy Kabul
Created: 2007-09-08 14:23:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
DE RUEHBUL #2998/01 2511423
O 081423Z SEP 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 KABUL 002998 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/10/2017 
Classified By: Charge Christopher Dell for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D) 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  Assistant Secretary for South and 
Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher's August 
27 meetings with President Karzai, Foreign Minister 
Spanta, Lower House Speaker Qanooni and National 
Security Advisor Rassoul spanned a range of key 
topics.  Boucher, Karzai and Rassoul agreed to focus 
on themes of economic cooperation, intelligence- 
sharing, refugees, controlling illicit border traffic, 
and engaging the tribes during the upcoming trilateral 
meeting between Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte, 
Rassoul, and Pakistani National Security Advisor Aziz. 
Karzai's vision of a UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan 
largely mirrors U.S. thoughts on the issue. 
Discussion of counternarcotics and governance led 
Karzai to make a pitch for the international community 
to give the Afghan government room to do governance 
"the Afghan way."  Boucher pressed Spanta and Qanooni 
to ensure that Iran's role in Afghanistan is limited 
to a constructive one.  End Summary. 
2.  (C) Karzai seemed pleased when Boucher shared that 
the recent Afghanistan-Pakistan jirga had been 
portrayed favorably in the U.S. media.  Karzai 
commented that six months would be an ideal time frame 
after which to host the next jirga in Pakistan.  Both 
agreed that the Afghan jirga was an important 
confidence-building measure, but Boucher expressed his 
hope that the next jirga in Pakistan might produce 
more concrete agreements.  He raised the upcoming 
visit of Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte as an 
opportunity to capitalize on the momentum of the jirga 
and ensure continued progress towards the next one. 
Boucher raised the idea of having the Afghan and 
Pakistani National Security Advisors meet together 
with Negroponte during his visit to Jalalabad near the 
Afghan-Pakistani border and proposed that the three 
work together to identify specific issues where the 
greatest cooperation is needed (such as economic 
cooperation, intelligence-sharing and controlling 
illicit border traffic).  Boucher also pushed for a 
discussion of how to engage the tribes along the 
border, whose buy-in is essential to the staying power 
of any future jirga agreements.  Karzai, Spanta and 
Rassoul were each on board with this. 
3.  (C) Karzai shared that there was a recent 
gathering of Pakistani tribal chiefs in Peshawar 
during which the chiefs expressed a desire for the 
same rights and freedoms as ordinary Pakistani 
citizens.  However, Karzai noted that these same 
tribes had recently refused to celebrate Pakistani 
Independence Day.  Karzai said the Pakistani 
government needed to pull tribal leaders into a system 
of formal representation, while Boucher noted that 
Pakistani Interior Minister Sherpao did not think a 
political party system within the Tribal Areas would 
be feasible in the near term. 
4.  (C) In a separate discussion with Boucher, 
National Security Advisor Rassoul said Karzai had 
initiated the process of finalizing the list of 
participants in the commission that will implement the 
agreements from the first jirga.  Boucher seconded 
Sherpao's desire to see a commission comprised of 
those "who can get things done."  In an encouraging 
sign, Rassoul acknowledged that Sherpao had been a 
very helpful partner in the lead-up to, execution of 
and follow-up to the first jirga.  Rassoul stated that 
the first task would be to work on the continuation of 
dialogue with the "opposition," including Taliban. 
Boucher pushed specifically for the jirga commission 
to identify who the opposition is and relayed 
Sherpao's interest in bringing those "who are not part 
KABUL 00002998  002 OF 006 
of the Taliban but sympathetic to them into the jirga 
process."  Both agreed that Afghanistan's official 
reconciliation process (commonly referred to as "PTS") 
is not appropriate for high-level leaders and large 
groups, so the jirga commission could play a role in 
defining a more appropriate process for people 
in this category. 
5.  (C) Boucher shared his opinion that Pakistan is 
"making a real effort now by going after the hardest 
targets, including Pakistani and Arab insurgents," 
which has already yielded results.  Rassoul noted 
that his government is considering using the 
Provincial Communications Center model (currently 
used to coordinate information among the Afghan 
National Security Forces at the provincial 
level) to set up a nexus for intelligence-sharing 
between the Afghan and Pakistani governments. 
Pakistan is concerned about Baluch rebels who are 
operating in and supported from Afghanistan, and 
Boucher stressed the importance of the Afghan 
government doing all it can to crack down on this. 
6. (C) During the meeting with Spanta, the Foreign 
Minister indicated that while he had been skeptical 
about the jirga himself, he had considered it a major 
success in the end.  He said that the Afghan 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sending five 
newly appointed diplomats to Pakistan for training 
-- a significant goodwill gesture following the 
jirga, as Afghanistan has refused educational 
assistance from Pakistan in the past.  Spanta said 
Musharraf's appearance at the end of the jirga was 
a real high point.  Boucher emphasized that it was 
Karzai's urging that changed Musharraf's mind. 
Boucher clarified that Musharraf's initial decision 
not to attend was not a snub to the jirga itself 
but a cautionary move by Musharraf, who feared the 
Pakistani Supreme Court would rule to allow former 
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan. 
Spanta conceded that, "We know Sharif is bad news.  He 
is the author of Islamic radicalism in our region." 
Boucher agreed that Sharif could return to lead a 
movement that is pro-Islam, anti-Musharraf and anti- 
7.  (C) When Boucher asked Karzai his thoughts on the 
best role for a UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan, 
Karzai stated, "If it would be a UN Envoy that would 
bring better coordination among the international 
community at capitals and also cause better 
coordination in Afghanistan, and within the Alliance 
on Afghanistan, then good.  But if it is someone who 
would set up a parallel government of internationals, 
then no."  At one point Karzai stated, "I do not want 
a stronger UN," then clarified that "I want the UN to 
be a stronger coordinator of the international 
community, yes, but not a parallel government in 
Afghanistan."  (Note:  The British have indicated 
their vision of a Special Envoy who would be based in 
and work primarily in Afghanistan, whereas the U.S. 
and Afghan sides envision an envoy who would spend a 
great deal of time fund-raising and coordinating donor 
strategies in donor country capitals.  End note.) 
8.  (C) During his meeting with Rassoul, Boucher 
commented that the French government had been 
considering running a Provincial Reconstruction 
Team and that the French Ministers of Defense and 
Foreign Affairs plan to visit Afghanistan soon. 
Boucher, Rassoul, and the Ambassador discussed future 
prospects for other donor country involvement in 
Afghanistan, noting that the Canadians were "iffy" and 
that the Dutch may leave after 2009.  The British, 
French, Australians and U.S. will likely stay 
KABUL 00002998  003 OF 006 
for longer periods.  Rassoul asserted the importance 
of "Afghanizing" the war in Kandahar both in order to 
reduce Canadian casualties, which might encourage the 
Canadians to stay longer, and to prepare the Afghan 
National Army and police for Canada's likely 
withdrawal.  Boucher noted that after a withdrawal of 
maneuver troops, the Canadians may still be willing to 
run a Provincial Reconstruction Team focused on 
development, as well as the training and equipping of 
Afghan National Security Forces.  Boucher noted that 
as 2009 is an election year, it would be good to 
encourage donor countries to stay throughout 2009- 
2010.  He also expressed hope that efforts to engage 
Pakistan now would increase security significantly in 
the next year or two, perhaps encouraging other 
countries to stay present in Afghanistan. 
9.  (C) Boucher noted that the UN Office of Drugs and 
Crime had released its latest assessment of drug 
production in Afghanistan.  He highlighted the 
report's findings that while the number of 
poppy-free provinces had increased from six to 
thirteen, overall production in Afghanistan had 
increased by 34 per cent, particularly in Helmand. 
Karzai reiterated his position against an aerial 
eradication campaign.  When Boucher asked Karzai for 
his thinking on ground-based spray, Karzai replied, 
"We have not said no, but we're not saying yes either. 
We would have to inform the population and do it in a 
way that does not create enmity."  The Ambassador 
noted the difficulties in relying on manual 
eradication and pointed out that 16 of the 135 
eradicators had been killed last year.  Boucher 
assured Karzai that the aerial spray decision was one 
for another year.  "Another few years," Karzai 
interjected.  Boucher planted the idea of eventually 
doing aerial spray in Taliban controlled areas and 
manual eradication in those parts still loyal to the 
central government.  Karzai gave no immediate 
10.  (C) The discussion on increased drug cultivation 
in Helmand sparked Karzai's thoughts on establishing 
and maintaining central government authority in the 
provinces.  According to Karzai, "The question is why 
do we have Taliban controlling these areas now when 
two years ago I had control of Helmand?  When Sher 
Mohammad was governor there, we had girls in 
schools and only 160 foreign troops.  The 
international community pushed me to remove him and 
now look where we are."  Referring to Sher Mohammad, 
Karzai retorted, "My question for you is, do you want 
bad guy on your side or working for the Taliban? 
Where Afghans are in charge, drugs are less but where 
the international community is in charge, drugs are 
up."  The Ambassador countered that the scenario is 
more accurately read as the international community 
has invested its resources and manpower in the tougher 
provinces where, not coincidentally, the Taliban have 
stepped up their counterinsurgency and drug 
cultivation efforts to discredit both the Afghan 
government and international community.  Karzai 
conceded but added that the Afghan people do not see 
it that way from the ground. 
11.  (C) Pressing the issue more firmly, Boucher asked 
Karzai whether it is possible to have the Afghan 
government in control using good guys, rather than the 
likes of Sher Mohammad as its agents.  "Yes, but that 
is a gradual process," said Karzai.  Maintaining that 
KABUL 00002998  004 OF 006 
"the most important thing is bringing the tribes to 
our side," he explained that the problem with the 
international community's approach to date is that 
"You are trying to pick and choose tribal chiefs (who 
will expand the presence of the central government 
into rural areas), but that is not how the tribal 
system works.  A tribal chiefdom is jealously guarded. 
It cannot be taken by force and it cannot be imposed 
from the outside.  When we distort tribal structures, 
the vacuum is filled by the Taliban, and that is 
exactly what has happened in Helmand and Uruzgan."  He 
noted that Kandahar is an exception because of his 
outreach to all the tribal chiefs there.  According to 
Karzai, "the people in Helmand and Uruzgan are 
uneducated, so you have to fight the Taliban with 
local ingredients," unlike in more developed Kandahar. 
He added, "We cannot bring tribal chiefs on board with 
governors because we say to them that we want you to 
support the governor, but we single out particular 
chiefs and say we don't want them involved in the 
process.  Whether we like it or not, we have to work 
with these people."  Karzai and Rassoul both indicated 
that Karzai is currently focused on an outreach 
campaign to win backing from tribal leaders in 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
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12.  (C) Boucher informed Karzai that he would meet 
with Lower House Speaker Qanooni later that day. 
Boucher told Karzai that his message to Qanooni 
would be: "Political opposition is okay, but it has to 
be constructive."  Karzai's advice was to remind 
Qanooni that he would not hold his position without 
U.S. backing.  As the conversation turned to political 
parties, Karzai commented, "I will not be a political 
party man, but I will support parties," presumably 
referring to his rumored alliance with the newly 
formed Republican Party. 
13.  (C) During the meeting with Qanooni, Boucher 
emphasized that Iran and Russia should not be given 
inroads for influence in a way that would disrupt the 
system.  Boucher clarified that while Iran's 
investment in cultural and educational institutions 
was acceptable, its role in smuggling weapons into 
Afghanistan was not.  Qanooni responded by assuring 
Boucher and the Ambassador that Afghanistan continues 
to see the U.S. as its "long-term partner."  Stressing 
that "We are not asking Afghans to choose sides," 
Boucher expressed U.S. understanding for Afghanistan's 
need to cultivate cooperative economic, business, 
cultural, and "normal" political relationships with 
Iran but reiterated that the line should be drawn at 
any activities that are disruptive to the 
establishment of a strong central government in 
Afghanistan.  Qanooni indicated that, aside from Iran 
and Russia, people allied with the Hizb-i-Islami 
Gulbuddin party continue to seek more positions of 
influence within the Afghan government administration. 
14.  (C) Pointing out that, "The security problems in 
southern Afghanistan are spreading to the north," 
Qanooni added that, "While others think the security 
situation will remain in control, I and other members 
of Parliament have some concerns."  He pointed to 
recent Taliban activity in Kapisa, Nuristan, and 
Baghlan as evidence of this.  "Only Panjshir is 
protected," he stated.  When Boucher asked how Taliban 
are able to operate in the north, where Pashtuns are a 
minority, Qanooni insisted that the Taliban have 
located and begun to infiltrate the predominantly 
Pashtun districts which are scattered around the 
15.  (C) Qanooni mentioned the formation of a special 
committee from the Lower House that will be 
KABUL 00002998  005 OF 006 
investigating why decisions made by Parliament are not 
implemented by the executive branch.  (Note: He was 
referring primarily to the decision of Parliament to 
impeach Foreign Minister Spanta and Minister of 
Refugees Akbar.  Karzai mentioned that the Palace has 
also established a committee of six ministers to 
settle the issue with Parliament.  End note.) 
16.  (C) The topic of Iran also surfaced during 
Boucher's meeting with Spanta, who acknowledged, "We 
agree with the U.S. and U.K. that Iran is engaged in a 
lot of interference, but our interest in dealing with 
Iran is to be careful not to open a second front along 
the Iranian border with Afghanistan."  Spanta noted 
the Afghan government's recent decision to reject a 
Memorandum of Understanding on military cooperation 
proposed by Iran.  Spanta also shared that Karzai had 
raised the issue of Iran's involvement in smuggling 
weapons into Afghanistan with Iranian President 
Ahmedinejad, who Spanta said, "denied it, of course, 
but the point was made."  Spanta noted that Iran was 
primarily invested in supporting political parties, 
mobilizing Shia mullahs, influencing the Afghan media, 
and providing material support to the Taliban.  He 
added that Iran is funding the completion of a railway 
that will go from Iran into Afghanistan and end 
outside Herat City.  Spanta expressed his uncertainty 
about the complicity of the Iranian Foreign Minister 
in providing material support to the Taliban, stating 
that "He promised me he is not involved, but said that 
he is involved in supporting political parties in 
17.  (C) Spanta commented that his biggest problem is 
that Iran continues to send back Afghan refugees - 
both those who are registered and those who are 
not - and added that Iran does not coordinate with 
the Afghan government on the forced returns. 
18.  (C) Spanta explained that Afghanistan continues 
to work with Pakistan on transit trade and updating 
their formal treaty from the 1960's.  They would also 
like to address this in the framework of South Asian 
Association for Regional Cooperation.  Afghan Commerce 
Minister Farhang will travel to Pakistan shortly in 
hopes of making some progress.  Spanta moved next to a 
request for U.S. financial assistance for the upcoming 
conference of the Economic Cooperation Organization 
(ECO), October 16-20, 2007 in Herat, which is focused 
on regional economic cooperation between Afghanistan, 
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, 
Turkmenistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and 
Pakistan.  Boucher promised to pass on the request but 
cautioned Spanta that the prospects were not good 
given how soon the conference would take place and the 
lack of U.S. membership in the organization. 
19.  (C) Boucher stressed to Karzai and Spanta the 
need to follow-up on the success of the Tajik- 
Afghanistan bridge opening with a trucking and transit 
agreement that allows Afghan and Tajik vendors and 
distributors to transport their goods across the 
border.  The Ambassador pitched the idea of a truck 
leasing consortium project that would allow small- 
scale distributors, who could not afford to own 
trucks, to rent them when transporting their products. 
Both Karzai and Spanta welcomed the idea.  Spanta 
noted that Afghan Commerce Minister Farhang will 
soon travel to Pakistan to discuss similar issues. 
20.  (C) Spanta also noted that the Chinese are 
increasingly interested in becoming a regional 
economic partner as well as knowing more about what 
the larger international community is doing to invest 
in Afghanistan. 
KABUL 00002998  006 OF 006 
21.  (C) Note: Renewed focus on regional economic 
cooperation will be part of the agenda for the 
upcoming Afghanistan Ministerial Meeting on September 
23 (co-chaired by President Karzai and Secretary 
General Ban Ki-Moon) that will precede the UN General 
Assembly.  The October 3 meeting of the Joint 
Coordination and Monitoring Board will also focus 
on regional economic cooperation.  This will be an 
important follow-up to the success of the Tajik- 
Afghanistan bridge opening and an opportunity to 
capitalize on the momentum of the jirga, with economic 
cooperation presenting a clear win-win for all parties 
involved.  End note. 
22.  (SBU) The Office of the Assistant Secretary for 
South and Central Asian Affairs has cleared this 

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