It is July 2009 and there are less than two months to go until the presidential election in Afghanistan. Incumbent Hamid Karzai is considered the clear favorite for a second term in office, but his relationship with the United States has turned frosty.
The president has taken to railing furiously against his political protector when talking to his own confidants, but he also doesn't hide his anger in direct talks with US representatives. The US ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, is growing concerned and writes in a dispatch to Washington: "Karzai contended that the US had lost its purpose over the past six years," according to a dispatch from July 2009. Referring to a meeting he held with Karzai, Eikenberry wrote that he was "questioning the US commitment to a strong partnership with Afghanistan."
For Karzai, it's also a matter of personal loyalty -- the proud Pashtun leader is convinced the US has thrown its backing behind his rival Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai believes the US is looking to get rid of him.
For security reasons, the Afghan president has hardly left his palace in Kabul for nearly nine years. His worldview is shaped by conversations with visitors from around the country and meetings with his loyal advisors.
The uneasy relationship with the US can be traced to the presidency of George W. Bush, but it has worsened since President Barack Obama moved into the White House. Karzai even has difficulties getting a videoconference appointment with the new president; when Bush held the office, the two leaders were in touch weekly. Nor does the Afghan president get along well with Obama's special representative to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke.
An 'Ever-Shrewd Politician'
Ambassador Eikenberry drew up a detailed psychological profile of Karzai, portraying the leader as driven by "paranoia" and "misperceptions," fluctuating between an "overly self-conscious" personality who believes his best days are behind him and an "ever-shrewd politician" who sees himself "as a nationalist hero who can save the country from being divided by the decentralization-focused agenda of Abdullah, other political rivals, neighboring countries and the US."
Nearly 19,000 of the American diplomatic dispatches that have now been made public by WikiLeaks deal exclusively or partially with Afghanistan. They reveal a political debacle and US diplomatic efforts to get the situation under control. They shed light on NATO's role in the country and on the intricate network of string-pullers behind the scenes.
ORIGINALS: THE KEY AFGHANISTAN CABLES
Click on the headlines below to read the full texts...
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<<215470>> 07.07.2009 13:29 09KABUL1767 Embassy Kabul SECRET
VZCZCXRO6511 OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL DE RUEHBUL #1767/01 1881329 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 071329Z JUL 09 FM AMEMBASSY KABUL TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0009 INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE TAGS: PGOV, PREL, AF SUBJECT: KARZAI ON THE STATE OF US-AFGHAN RELATIONS
S e c r e t section 01 of 03 kabul 001767
E.o. 12958: decl: 07/03/2019 Tags: pgov, prel, af Subject: karzai on the state of us-afghan relations
Classified By: Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d ).
1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. In a series of meetings this week, I discussed with President Karzai a number of issues, including Karzai's concerns with the future of US policy on Afghanistan, and his opinions on where US policy here had failed. The meetings were cordial, but raised certain concerns for me about the status of the US-Afghan relationship, both in the lead up to the election and over the long term, should Karzai win reelection. Karzai's comments reinforce my belief that our relationship must be a two-way partnership of obligations and responsibilities. We must also convince Karzai to put his backing behind democratic institutions and professionalized security forces are better equipped to lead Afghanistan into the future, rather than Karzai's preference for tribal structures and informal power networks. This cable summarizes the content of these four recent meetings, as well as a subsequent conversation with Interior Minister Atmar. End Summary.
2. (S/NF) I met with Karzai on four occasions this week: on June 30 with COMISAF Gen. McChrystal and most of Karzai's national security team, and three times on July 1, xxxxxxxxxxxx, and finally with CODEL Ellsworth. Karzai maintained a calm demeanor throughout, but at several times displayed views that troubled me with their potential implications for US-Afghan relations. I also called on Atmar on July 2.
Kandahar Incident ----------
3. (S/NF) At the June 30 meeting with Karzai and his national security advisors, Gen. McChrystal and I briefed Karzai on a June 29 incident in which a USG-funded, equipped, and mentored paramilitary force attacked a Kandahar courthouse. The incident resulted in the deaths of several Afghan National Police officers. Karzai had earlier received phone calls from high-level US officials regretting the incident, so was calm and did not display the type of emotive anger he has shown following civilian casualty incidents. In the later one-on-one meeting with me, I reminded Karzai that he had selected and introduced this paramilitary unit's recruits to the USG in 2002, a fact that he had conveniently omitted in larger group settings.
4. (S/NF) Karzai insisted that units operating outside of the Afghan armed forces must be brought under the legitimate control of the Afghan government. Gen. McChrystal and I agreed that both counterterrorism paramilitary units and private security companies (PSCs) require more rigorous oversight and be brought under the eventual control of the Afghan government. PSCs required stronger regulations, yet the government should also adopt more transparent licensing procedures.
US Policy on Afghanistan ----------
5. (S/NF) Karzai declared in all four meetings that he believed the US was not speaking clearly to Afghans on its goals in Afghanistan. Karzai contended that in 2002 the US had stated a clear purpose for being involved in Afghanistan but had lost its purpose over the past six years. As he has in past meetings with us, Karzai either stated his belief in or repeated rumors questioning the US commitment to a strong partnership with Afghanistan.
6. (S/NF) Karzai reported Pakistani intelligence officials had alleged to Afghan officials that the US intended to divide Pakistan and weaken Afghanistan in order to pursue its fight against terrorist groups. At the same time, Karzai accused Iran of trying to weaken Afghanistan by supporting the presidential campaign of Abdullah Abdullah in order to promote a decentralization agenda that would strip power from the central government to give to sub-national actors over whom Iran believed it would have more control. Incredulously, Karzai appeared to accept so-called rumors that the US and Iran were working together to support Abdullah against him.
7. (S/NF) I pushed back strongly on this misinformation in the June 30 meeting with Karzai's national security team, reiterating to Karzai that there was no overt or covert US program to support any presidential candidate. I then asked Karzai if he took me at my word on this issue. Karzai, perhaps not wanting to back down in front of his advisors, said that he did not. Karzai said the US had actively encouraged Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani, and Zalmay Khalilzad to run for the presidency. At one point Karzai joked that I should "consult my (above) buddies" on national security issues. I repeated that the US had no favored candidates in
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the race and the formal setting of the meeting was not a proper forum to make such inappropriate comments. He was embarrassed and helpfully shifted the conversation to another topic. I also urged Karzai to move away from conspiratorial thinking and instead focus on bringing ideas for the future into his campaign. Introducing a clear platform now will put him in a better position to move forward if he wins reelection.
US Mistakes in Afghanistan ----------
8. (S/NF) Karzai and I held a one-on-one meeting shortly before meeting CODEL Ellsworth. Karzai agreed with my suggestion to make a better effort to present the case for continued and productive US engagement in his meetings with USG visitors from Washington. However, as the CODEL meeting began, Karzai reverted to old form and launched into a familiar review of the many instances where he believed the US had miscalculated its policies in the region. In summary: The US had failed to formulate an effective post-2001 policy on Pakistan, had pulled out of southern Afghanistan (particularly Helmand) too soon and given too much responsibility to ill-equipped and casualty-averse NATO allies, had failed to effectively engage with and pay respect to the importance of tribal leaders in Afghan society, and had allowed tribal leader networks to be decimated by insurgent attacks. I spoke up then, observing that I had visited Helmand several years ago before other NATO forces took over military operations there and witnessed signs that governance and security were declining under then-Gov. Sher Mohammed Akhundzada.
Atmar on Karzai's Paranoia ----------
9. (S/NF) I told Interior Minister Atmar at our July 2 meeting that with his conspiratorial behavior, Karzai would run the risk of leaving USG interlocutors with the impression that we have accomplished very little here and that the Afghan government believed most of the failures lay with us. This is not a dialogue that will lead to an effective partnership. The US has been clear in its past shortcomings in Afghanistan, but we have yet to see Karzai admit to the serious shortcomings in his administration.
10. (S/NF) Atmar agreed with the importance of Karzai presenting himself as a better international partner. He also detailed three existing paranoias that affected Karzai's worldview: (1) Karzai did not understand US policy in the region and suspected ulterior motives in our relationship with neighboring countries; (2) he suspected the US was contemplating a short-term strategy in Afghanistan that would result in our disengagement within the next two years; and (3) the US was intent on dumping Karzai and supporting another candidate. A fourth emerging paranoia was of a US plot to divide and weaken Pashtuns on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Despite these paranoias, Atmar assured me that Karzai had confidence in his personal relationship with me and recognized the need to meet more frequently to work through his misperceptions of US policy and intentions.
Our Relationship with Karzai ----------
11. (S/NF) In these meetings and other recent encounters with Karzai, two contrasting portraits emerge. The first is of a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation building and overly self-conscious that his time in the spotlight of glowing reviews from the international community has passed. The other is that of an ever-shrewd politician who sees himself as a nationalist hero who can save the country from being divided by the decentralization-focused agenda of Abdullah, other political rivals, neighboring countries, and the US. In order to recalibrate our relationship with Karzai, we must deal with and challenge both of these personalities.
12. (S/NF) The danger of long-term damage to our relationship with and thus our influence over Karzai ) who for now is the clear favorite to win the election ) is real, but not irreversible. We need to carefully ensure that the distance between us and Karzai does not grow over the remaining weeks before the election. Karzai has invited me for a series of one-on-one meetings in the near future. According to Atmar, Karzai recognizes the importance of a closer dialogue. I will use this opportunity and others to re-focus our dialogue on several points that can improve our mutual understanding, including:
13. (S/NF) We need to seriously examine the issue of armed groups that currently operate outside of the purview of
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official Afghan government control. The activities of paramilitary units and PSCs, combined with civilian casualties, night searches, and others issues related to the presence of foreign forces, play into the manifestation of Afghans' anger that they are not in control of their own country. Karzai claims only to be a vessel for his peoples' anger. All hubris aside, he is expressing a legitimate concern of his constituents. These problems will be a barrier to moving forward in other areas of our relationship until we have properly addressed them.
14. (S/NF) At the same time, we must convince Karzai that the US-Afghan relationship is a two-way street of obligations and responsibilities. While we accept our own responsibilities, Karzai must accept and act on our expectation that he elucidate a clear vision for how he intends to lead Afghanistan over the next five years in a way that encourages democratization, promotes economic development, and recognizes the poisonous effects corruption has had on his government's ability to win the trust and respect of its people. If reelected, it is my hope that a Karzai who no longer needs to run for reelection will be better positioned and in a healthier frame of mind to pursue this agenda, as well as a meaningful national reconciliation.
15. (S/NF) I will work now to lay the foundation for improved trust and advances on the two key themes outlined above. I will work in tandem with Gen. McChrystal on both of these fronts. On the discussion of shared responsibilities, I will begin a frank, collaborative (and perhaps, at times, confrontational) dialogue with Karzai. No alternative approach is now evident. Karzai's current vision for Afghanistan's future relies too strongly on warlords, tribal chiefs, and other personalities of the past who would be difficult to reconcile with our commitments to build strong government institutions and professional security forces. Eikenberry
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<<250607>> 2/25/2010 4:05 10KABUL693 Embassy Kabul SECRET 09KABUL3068|10KABUL673 VZCZCXRO2601 OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL DE RUEHBUL #0693/01 0560405 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 250405Z FEB 10 FM AMEMBASSY KABUL TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5873 INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY TAGS: PGOV, KCOR, KCRM, PREL, AF SUBJECT: AHMED WALI KARZAI: SEEKING TO DEFINE HIMSELF AS REF: A. (A) KABUL 673
S e c r e t section 01 of 03 kabul 000693
Department for srap, sca/fo, sca/a, eur/rpm, inr/b state pass usaid for asia/scaa usfor-a for polad
E.o. 12958: decl: 02/25/2020 Tags: pgov, kcor, kcrm, prel, af Subject: ahmed wali karzai: seeking to define himself as u.s. Partner?
Ref: a. (a) kabul 673 b. (b) 09 kabul 3068
Classified By: Interagency Provincial Affairs Deputy Director Hoyt Yee for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) Begin Summary. Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) Frank Ruggiero met one-on-one with Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK) on February 23. SCR informed AWK that coalition attention will turn to Kandahar in the next phase of Operation Moshtarak (Together) and the United States will play a far greater role in Kandahar on the military and civilian sides. SCR outlined the coalition governance strategy for Kandahar and cautioned ISAF will seek non-interference by powerbrokers in police matters. AWK discussed the recent capture of Taliban leader Mullah Baradar in Kandahar, district and provincial-level politics, Kandahar economics and security, the role of xxxxxxxxxxxx narcotics, a southern Pashtoon political party, competition with Nangarhar Governor Gulaga Sherzai, and AWK's life in Chicago from 1983-1992. AWK appeared nervous, but eager to engage with a U.S. official. End Summary.
Focus on Kandahar -----------------
2. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) SCR told AWK the attention of the Afghan government, with ISAF support, would turn to Kandahar in the months ahead and it was likely this would be predominantly a political contest that would require the leadership from the highest level of the Afghan government. SCR discussed the governance strategy for Kandahar City and surrounding districts. AWK understood the next phase of operation Moshtarak would be on Kandahar and offered his support. SCR responded this would be an Afghan Government-led effort and the coalition would be focusing its resources on building up that capacity. SCR was clear the coalition would not tolerate individuals working at odds to ISAF campaign aims. AWK stated "nobody is that stupid."
Better Security and Economy in Kandahar ---------------------------------------
3. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) AWK told the SCR that security has improved in Kandahar over the past year. Freedom of movement had increased across the province, he said, citing his driving to the meeting at Kandahar Airfield with minimum security. AWK said insurgents no longer have the capability to launch large scale attacks; for example, AWK does not fear an insurgent attack on his home. AWK expressed concern about a series of assassinations aimed at Afghan officials and Afghan citizens who work for the coalition in the city, noting this could only be solved by intelligence assets. AWK said economic activity had increased in the Kandahar City area, but noted his belief that President Karzai is largely unaware of these gains. AWK told the President about increased economic activity in Arghandab related to AVIPA Plus and the President was very surprised, he said. AWK said the President did not understand the changing circumstances in the province.
Kandahar Politics Are Local ---------------------------
4. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) AWK said that it was important to get district-level tribal dynamics right to bring stability to Kandahar City and its environs. AWK specifically stated the need to rely on local, village elders to choose representatives to district shuras. This would ensure a representative shura for district level officials, said AWK and pointed to the succession of Arghandab-based Alikozai leader Mullah Naqib. AWK said the Alikozais chose Mullah Naqib's son, Karimullah, to lead the Alikozai. SCR pointed out coalition conventional wisdom that President Karzai had interfered in that process to appoint Karimullah, which led to certain Alikozai elements to support the Taliban in Arghandab. AWK said, unconvincingly, this was not the case. AWK then contradicted himself and said Karimullah, in fact, did not lead the Alikozai, but AWK's deputy at the provincial council Dastegeeri, was the most influential Alikozai in Kandahar.
Police in the South xxxxxxxxxxxx ----------------------------------------
5. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) SCR told AWK the coalition would not accept powerbroker interference with the police and used the example of citizens in Marjah telling Marines they would not
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support GIRoA due to past xxxxxxxxxxxx abuses xxxxxxxxxxxx Kandahar does not have similar issues of interference with the police, he said, but SCR pressed saying we are aware of a recent incident when the Kandahar governor sought to remove the Panjwa'i chief of police, but someone had intervened to halt that removal. AWK, who is believed to have prevented Governor Weesa from firing the police chief, said the governor had the power to remove police officials and should exercise that authority in Panjwa'i. AWK characterized Governor Weesa as honest and a powerful figure in Kandahar, but he needed to be more aggressive. In the same breath, AWK said he was the most powerful official in Kandahar and could deliver whatever is needed.
Capture of Mullah Baradar -------------------------
6. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) SCR asked AWK his views on the recent capture in Pakistan of Taliban leader Mullah Baradar. AWK said Pakistan detained Baradar and other Taliban leaders because they were prepared to discuss reintegration with the Karzai government. Senior Taliban fighters in Pakistan may be prepared to reintegrate, he said, but are forced by the Pakistan Government to continue to fight. AWK said some Afghan Taliban commanders cannot return to Afghanistan because they are on the Joint Priority Effects List (JPEL) and are told by the Pakistanis they must continue to fight or will be turned over to the coalition. It is important to remove such fighters from the JPEL for reintegration to work, he argued, adding that he has been working on the reconciliation issue with the Saudis for two-three years. AWK offered a meeting with SCR and his older brother and former Member of Parliament for Kandahar Kayyum Karzai in the next few weeks to discuss ongoing reintegration discussions with the Saudis.
Drug Trafficker: Where is the Polygraph? ----------------------------------------
7. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) Unprompted, AWK raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics, telling the SCR that he is willing to take a polygraph anytime, anywhere to prove his innocence and that he has hired an attorney in New York to clear his name. He suggested that the coalition pay mullahs to preach against heroin, which would reduce demand for poppy cultivation. AWK dismissed the narcotics allegations as part of a campaign to discredit him, particularly by the media, saying the allegations are "like a spice added to a dish to make it more enticing to eat."
A Political Party for Southern Pashtuns? -----------------------------------------
8. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) SCR asked AWK if there are discussions to create a Pashtun-oriented political party in the South. AWK said such a party would be announced shortly and it would encompass southern Pashtuns from Herat to Kandahar; Tajiks also would be represented. AWK said Afghans are reluctant to join political parties because they are associated with the communist party and Islamic fundamentalist movements, like the Taliban. He added that he could not be part of another election because he had to personally manage promises to hundreds of thousands of voters in the last election.
Gulaga Sherzai: Competitor --------------------------
9. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) SCR raised the recent 1,500 person shura co-hosted by AWK and Sherzai in Kandahar City (Reftel B). AWK said Sherzai was not to be trusted, but he was willing to work with him on a peace jirga to deliver peace to the south. AWK passionately presented his history of working with the United States since 2001 and told the SCR that he could deliver anything needed.
Missing Wrigley ---------------
10. (SBU//Rel NATO, ISAF) Further emphasizing his links to the United States, AWK fondly recalled his days in Chicago as a restaurant owner close to Chicago's Wrigley Field. His
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restaurant was a hub for American in the Midwest who had worked or lived in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion, he said.
11. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) AWK was eager to engage and rarely stopped talking in the two hour meeting. While he presented himself as a partner to the United States and is eager to be seen as helping the coalition, he also demonstrated that he will dissemble when it suits his needs. He appears not to understand the level of our knowledge of his activities, and that the coalition views many of his activities as malign, particularly relating to his influence over the police. We will need to monitor his activity closely, and deliver a recurring, transparent message to him of where are redlines are and what we expect of him in the months ahead. Ricciardone
<<77045>> 09.03.2006 08:36 06KABUL3934 Embassy Kabul UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
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E.o. 12958 n/a Tags: prel, pgov, pter, marr, af Subject: prt/kunduz: better than its reputation
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The German-led PRT in Kunduz is one of the most maligned PRTs in Afghanistan, but many of the old myths, especially regarding the PRT's military effectiveness, no longer apply. The Germans now patrol regularly throughout their area of responsibility (Kunduz and Takhar provinces), averaging 130 to 150 patrols per week, and routinely overnight outside the PRT compound in order to access the more remote districts. In the face of a deteriorating security situation over the past few months, the Germans have shown no sign of wavering in their commitment to the mission. The attitude of the PRT toward the U.S. Department of State (DOS) representative has improved significantly since the early days when Germany first took over the operation in Kunduz, and there has been no degradation in treatment even though DOS rep has not had any QIP funds to contribute to PRT projects since early 2006. Meanwhile, the bifurcated command structure of the PRT, as well as the reluctance of the German development agencies to work closely with the military on projects, continue to hamper the PRT's performance. Nonetheless, overall, the PRT is much improved. END SUMMARY.
Snapshot of prt kunduz ---------------------------------------- 2. (SBU) Originally, PRT Kunduz's area of responsibility (AOR) included all four provinces of the northeast (Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan and Badakhshan), but since the establishment of fully independent ISAF PRTs in Puli-Khumri (Netherlands) and Feyzabad (Germany) in late 2004 and 2005 respectively, PRT Kunduz's AOR has encompassed just Kunduz and Takhar provinces. The PRT is multinational, with troop contributions from six nations other than Germany (Switzerland, Romania, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Hungary), but the total number of non-German troops constitute less than 10 percent of the total force of 450. All the key leadership and staff positions at the PRT are held by Germans and the working language of the PRT is German. (This is in contrast to the German-led PRT in Feyzabad, which is truly a multinational operation, with English as the working language and the Czechs and Danes contributing almost 100 of the 330 troops and filling the deputy commander and J-3 slots, respectively.) There are nine staff in the civilian component of PRT Kunduz: three German diplomats (the most senior of whom is the civilian leader), three German police officers, two officials from the German Federal Intelligence Service, and the U.S. DOS rep. The German civilians serve tours of varying lengths, from two months to two years.
Intense scrutiny as isaf's first prt ------------------------------------ 3. (SBU) PRT Kunduz was one of the first PRTs established by the U.S.-led Coalition in late 2002. When NATO took command of ISAF in August 2003 and decided to expand beginning in the north, Kunduz became ISAF's first PRT. This occurred in early January 2004, at the same time that leadership of the PRT was transferred from the U.S. to Germany. For several months, Kunduz was the only ISAF PRT. As a result, the German operation was under incredible scrutiny and comparisons (almost all unfavorable) were inevitably drawn between it and the OEF PRTs. However, while much of the criticism was deserved early on when the PRT was first
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established, it is probably unfair to continue to depict the German PRT in this way.
The top five criticisms ------------------------------------- 4. (SBU) The early criticisms focused on five areas:
-- a poor tooth-to-tail ratio at the PRT, where there are almost three times as many support troops as there are troops who work outside the PRT, and too much spent on building a new PRT compound.
-- the lack of military effectiveness due to risk averseness, including restrictions on overnight and long-range patrolling and burdensome requirements for force protection and medical support.
-- the lack of PRT cohesion due to the bifurcated command structure, in which the military and civilian components operate independently.
-- the almost complete detachment of the PRT from the German development agencies, who live off the PRT compound and deliberately seek to limit their interaction with the military.
-- the reluctance of the PRT command to embrace the U.S. reps as full-fledged members of the PRT team.
Yes it's big, but... -------------------- 5. (SBU) The German PRT is several times bigger than the U.S. contingent it replaced and the German tooth-to-tail ratio is not as favorable. However, the Germans do not have an-in-country base like Bagram at which to centralize their combat support and combat service support assets. These assets must be located at the PRTs themselves. Plus, there are many facilities at PRT Kunduz -- most notably the role 2-plus hospital with a staff of 50 -- which serve German troops and other internationals and Afghans throughout the region. During the first five months of this year, the hospital treated more than 2,200 people (both outpatients and inpatients) and performed some 35 operations. One third of the patients and most of the serious cases (including those involving operations) were Afghans.
6. (SBU) It must also be conceded that the Germans have spent a great deal on administrative costs, especially in building a brand-new PRT camp, which opened in May, on a plateau 15 kilometers south of Kunduz. The 460-hectare camp (reportedly as large as the Vatican) has cost 35 million Euros so far (more than three times the original estimate) and is still not finished. But this facility has been built to German standards and the Germans plan to turn it over to the Afghans when the ISAF mission ends. The compound could eventually be used as a university campus, which would make it the first university in the northeast. The new camp has also given a very positive signal to the Afghans about the commitment of the international community, and especially the Germans, to continue the ISAF mission as long as necessary. The camp should also make it easier for the Bundeswehr to get soldiers to volunteer for second, third and fourth tours to Kunduz, which will be absolutely necessary to sustain a commitment over the long term.
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Big improvement on military effectiveness ----------------------------------------- 7. (SBU) When the Germans first arrived in Kunduz, they did have very restrictive rules of engagement. They did not do foot patrols, they did not stay outside the PRT overnight, they avoided patrolling during hours of darkness, they rarely ventured beyond a 40-kilometer radius of the PRT and they reacted to threats and attacks by retreating. However, the Germans have learned and adapted and become much more proactive. The 10th German contingent, which served at Kunduz from March to July of this year, averaged between 130 and 150 patrols a week, which included mounted patrols all night on the major roads. CIMIC (Civil Affairs), Psyops, and J-2 (Intelligence) teams traveled regularly to all 24 districts in the PRT's AOR. The Germans have long had a safe house in Taloqan, the provincial capital of Takhar, but now they are procuring a bigger compound to increase their patrolling capabilities.
8. (SBU) The requirement to have a doctor and ambulance within an hour of any deployed unit still stands, but the PRT no longer restricts itself to using just the six-wheel Fuchs Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) as the ambulance, since the Fuchs cannot be used on narrow roads or small bridges. This means there is essentially no limit to where the PRT can go in its AOR.
9. (SBU) In the face of a deteriorating security situation over the past few months -- which has included an unprecedented suicide car bomb attack and two ambushes with rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers -- the Germans have shown no sign of wavering in their commitment to the mission. The Germans have responded to each attack by immediately returning to the area and engaging with local officials and the population. In the case of the two RPG ambushes, the patrols returned direct fire on the attackers and the PRT participated in joint operations with the local ANA battalion and U.S. Special Force mentors to find and arrest those responsible.
Continued lack of prt cohesion ------------------------------ 10. (SBU) One area where that has been no change is the PRT's dual command structure. The PRT is still clearly divided into separate military and civilian components, with the PRT commander leading the former and the senior German diplomat leading the latter. They have completely different chains of command, with the commander reporting to ISAF HQ through Regional Command (RC) North, and the civilian leader reporting to Berlin through the German embassy in Kabul. The PRT commander and civilian leader are co-equals in theory, but in practice, the commander is the focus of attention because the PRT is a Bundeswehr facility and he controls almost all of its assets. But even in meetings outside the PRT, where both the commander and civilian leader are represented, Afghan officials tend to gravitate toward the military commander rather than the civilian leader. Most PRT Kunduz commanders have reinforced this tendency by not insisting that the Afghans deal with the civilian leader on an equal basis.
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11. (SBU) There is no doubt that this bifurcated command system creates duplication of effort and a lack of cohesion within the PRT. Under the 10th contingent, the civilian leader complained frequently about being marginalized and left out of the loop by the PRT commander. It would be ideal if everyone operated under one chain of command, but it is unlikely that the either the Bundeswehr or MFA will ever agree to formally subordinate themselves to the other. The best one can hope for is better information exchange and coordination. There are already mechanisms to facilitate this, but there is clearly room for improvement. The PRT has a common internal e-mail system and there are a thrice-weekly evening PRT staff meetings in which the civilian leader takes part, along with the representative of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the head of the German police project and the U.S. DOS rep.
13. (SBU) In the past, the ISAF POLAD has complained that political situation reports coming from Kunduz through the military clearly have not had the input of the civilian component. Although the civilian leader does not fall under ISAF's command, he should be able to share many of the reports he submits to the embassy and Berlin with ISAF. The civilian leader rarely shares reports he generates with ISAF.
German development agencies still detached ------------------------------------------ 14. (SBU) BMZ and the associated German development agencies -- the German Federal Credit Organization for Reconstruction (KfW), the German Development Service (DeD) and the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) -- are still located off the PRT in their own compound. While the head of BMZ participates in PRT staff meetings and coordinates closely with the PRT, BMZ still operates independently from the PRT, believing that development is not the military's business. If the security situation were ever to deteriorate to the point that BMZ and its associated agencies no longer felt safe operating in Kunduz, they are more likely to leave altogether than come to live at the PRT.
15. (SBU) According to BMZ and MFA officials in Kunduz, Germany has a budget of about 80 million Euros per year for development projects in Afghanistan. Another estimated 30 million Euros of German government money is funneled indirectly to Afghanistan each year through government-supported NGOs and research institutes (like the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung). BMZ controls about 50 million Euros of the Afghanistan development budget. While the other 30 million Euros is nominally controlled by the MFA, much of it is reportedly earmarked for certain programs like the Disarmament of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) (1 million Euros) and the German police project (12 million Euros). In addition, the MFA development rep at the PRT has about 60,000 Euros per year that he or she can spend on small, quick-impact projects without prior approval from Berlin. Finally, the PRT commander has access to a small amount of money (15,000 to 30,000 Euros) that he can use to address immediate needs.
16. (SBU) Meanwhile, the PRT CIMIC (Civil Affairs) teams continue to travel throughout the AOR, meeting
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local authorities and doing comprehensive assessments of each district. However, CIMIC has only a bare-bones budget and cannot fund even a small percentage of all the worthwhile project proposals it develops. BMZ does not see the CIMIC projects as fitting within its overall development plans, and therefore funds only about five percent of the proposals it receives from CIMIC. The MFA development rep and the PRT commander fund some of the CIMIC proposals, but their own budgets are rather limited. In the past, CIMIC counted on the DOS rep to help fund some of its projects with USAID QIP funds, but those funds have not been available since early 2006. That has sent CIMIC scurrying to other NGOs to try to make up the difference.
Much improved attitude toward u.s. Rep -------------------------------------- 17. (SBU) The attitude of the PRT toward the U.S. DOS rep has improved significantly since the early days when Germany first took over the operation in Kunduz. During the 10th contingent, the DOS rep was about as integrated into the PRT as he could be without compromising his ability for independent action. He was included on the PRT Kunduz internal e-mail system and he had a seat at the table for the thrice-weekly PRT evening staff meetings. While the commander did not seek out the DOS rep's political advice on issues, he was always open to input.
18. (SBU) After insisting for years on an MOU to define the U.S. role at the PRT and seeking reimbursement for the U.S. share of PRT costs, Germany has apparently decided to drop these demands. DOS rep was never approached on these issues during the 10th contingent. At the new PRT compound, he was provided private living accommodations and separate office space sufficient for both himself and the political assistant. The Germans have sought no payment or reimbursement.
19. (SBU) Because of the generally permissive security environment in the northeast, the civilians at the PRT usually move on their own in armored vehicles without military force protection. Therefore, the DOS rep did not require much active support from the PRT to carry out his duties. Had military force protection been routinely required, it is not clear that the PRT would have had the assets, or been willing, to provide the necessary support.
Comment ------- 20. (SBU) While the German-led PRT in Kunduz is far from perfect, it is significantly better than it was at the start and is constantly improving, especially in terms of its approach to military operations and its engagement with the local populace. Fortunately, we have moved beyond the issues that previously caused irritation in the U.S.-German relationship at the PRT and have forged a strong partnership.
Following the controversial elections in August 2009, a vote that was marred by accusations of vast irregularities, the US forced Karzai into a run-off with his challenger Abdullah. Karzai's supporters in particularly were suspected of having committed election fraud on a massive scale. In the end, however, Abdullah backed out of the run-off, wanting to spare himself defeat.
"It's like a game show where you've answered one question correctly and now you can either take your 'win' and go home, or risk it all to answer the last question," Amrullah Saleh, head of Karzai's secret services, offered as his analysis of Abdullah's tactics, over a dinner in Kabul with US Senator Richard Burr. "All of Abdullah's options," Saleh said, "are coming to a dead end."
A 'Semi-Modern Aristocracy'
Abdullah's withdrawal from the run-off did great damage to Karzai, effectively robbing him of legitimacy. Furthermore, the episode did nothing to improve relations between the Afghan president and his American protectors.
Still, the true power base in Afghanistan often lies far from the political poker games of Kabul, in the hands of rural tribes, whose structures are often difficult to penetrate. The Karzais are extremely well positioned here, as shown in one detailed dispatch primarily addressing the role of Hamid Karzai's younger half-brother Ahmed Wali.
In the southern province of Kandahar, home province of the president and also the region where the Taliban movement was founded, the Popalzai clan, with tribal leader Hamid Karzai at the helm, oversees a "semi-modern aristocracy," according to the cable. Ahmed Wali Karzai, formerly the owner of a restaurant in Chicago, acts as the spider at the center of the web, trying to "increase Karzai political dominance."
Kandahar City, near the border with Pakistan, is a crossroads for goods of all types, as well as for military supplies. The tribes here vie for multi-million-dollar contracts with the Western coalition, but also for land and power. Bolstered by the authority of his brother the president, Ahmed Wali helps his family members and friends land "licit and illicit enterprises," according to a US dispatch.
These deals concern enormous budgets in the security, construction and transport industries, but also lucrative -- and naturally illegal -- control of the all-important ring road and the development of Ayno Maina, an exclusive housing community on the eastern edge of Kandahar City. "The Popalzai occupy the leadership pinnacle," reads a US Embassy dispatch.
Involvement in the Opium Trade?
According to a dispatch dated Feb. 25 of this year, Ahmed Wali appeared "nervous but eager to engage with a US official." He indignantly denied all accusations of heavy involvement in the opium trade, allegations that have festered for years. They are, Ahmed Wali said, simply part of a "campaign to discredit him." Rumors of his ostensible drug trafficking are "like a spice added to a dish to make it more enticing to eat." The embassy deputy who spoke to Ahmed Wali wrote: "He appears not to understand the level of our knowledge of his activities."
Canada, which has troops stationed in Kandahar, would prefer simply to strip Karzai's brother of power, according to a dispatch concerning the visit of the Canadian ambassador to the US. Canada, the ambassador made clear, believes this is the only way to establish law and order in the region. But when it comes to the battle against such corruption, the US sees a "serious dilemma." The Afghan government's efforts toward "bringing to justice major corrupt figures would include some of Karzai's closest relatives and allies and require the prosecution of people on whom we often rely for assistance and/or support."
The German Contribution
Germany's troops, meanwhile, are stationed at military bases all the way on the other side of the country, far to the north. They are trying to implement policies different from those in the war-torn, corrupt south. The US has precious little interest in the German concept of "networked security." Instead, Washington has focused its attention on the debate in Berlin over Germany's involvement in Afghanistan.
Countless dispatches filed by the US Embassy in Berlin discuss how the US might convince Germany to increase its involvement in Afghanistan. Again and again, the central question is how to break through Germany's legally mandated upper limit of 4,500 soldiers. "The Germans strongly support" General Stanley McChrystal's new plan to focus on protecting civilians -- support which provides a "window of opportunity," one of the dispatches notes.
Still, American diplomats didn't think much of the German troops in Afghanistan in the beginning. They considered the German base in Kunduz one of the "most maligned" military bases in the entire operation, according to a cable from September 2006. The Germans have "three times as many support troops as there are troops who work outside the base," they exhibit a "lack of military effectiveness" and "risk averseness, including restrictions on overnight and long-range patrolling."
'No Signs of Wavering'
Following a visit to Kunduz, however, a US diplomat had milder words for the German troops: "Many of the old myths, especially regarding the Provincial Reconstruction Team's military effectiveness, no longer apply. The Germans now patrol regularly throughout their area of responsibility ... averaging 130 to 150 patrols per week, and routinely overnight outside PRT compound in order to access the more remote districts. In the face of a deteriorating security situation over the past few months, the Germans have shown no signs of wavering in their commitment to the mission."
Still, until early last year the US saw the south and the east of Afghanistan as the primary theaters of war. Only in May 2009, by which time Germany had lost 19 soldiers in combat, did a US diplomat sound the alarm: "Among the misconceptions dispelled are the notions that there are only negligible security issues in the northeast," a dispatch from the US Embassy in Kabul from May 2009 reads. "In fact, there appears to be a genuine threat to future ISAF resupply convoys.... It's a bit unnerving to realize that villages literally a stone's throw from the main north-south road ... are in a security no-go area owing to the presence there of insurgent elements."
It didn't take long for the US to react. Washington drew up plans to send in American troops and Special Forces to stabilize the north. A brigade with its own helicopter fleet was sent north as was an entire reconnaissance battalion. US Special Forces were integrated into the German base at Mazar-i-Sharif. It quickly became clear to ISAF commanders in Kabul that the US would subsequently be setting the tone in northern Afghanistan.
But the US Embassy in Berlin quickly intervened and urgently advised against offending the Germans. "It is ... their belief that they are one of our most reliable Allies in Afghanistan that makes the Germans so sensitive to any perceived US criticism of their actions," reads a dispatch from September 2009. "As we go forward with our plans to deploy some 300 US Special Forces in Mazar-e-Sharif to assist the Germans in meeting the growing insurgency threat, we will want to be careful not to give the impression that we do not have faith in the Germans to do what is necessary to continue to secure the north.... It is in our interest for the Germans to continue to feel 'ownership' of this part of the country."
'Aura of Invincibility'
Still, despite renewed US focus on the north, the war has dragged on for years and weariness with the bloodshed continues to spread -- not just within NATO but among the Taliban as well. This can be seen from US diplomatic correspondence concerning a first round of negotiations between representatives of Karzai's government and the Taliban in Mecca in October 2008. "There had been an enthusiastic response from the Quetta participants," said Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud of the meeting, according to a US dispatch.
Qayum Karzai, older brother of the Afghan president, spent months putting together the delicate meeting with the help of Abdullah Anas, a former Algerian ally of Osama bin Laden. The organizers managed to bring together a 17-member delegation of negotiators over a dinner to celebrate the end of Ramadan at the invitation of the Saudi king. Still, the two sides made little progress towards a compromise. "Both sides fell short," Prince Turki bin Faisal, former head of Saudi intelligence, said according to a US cable. In addition, the dispatch continues, the Taliban leadership was "fractured."
The Saudi royal family has shown a willingness to mediate such negotiations, but remains cautious. Only if the Taliban were to truly break away from al-Qaida and "cease providing refuge to its leaders", Saudi Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal told US Ambassador James Smith in Riyadh, would Saudi Arabia be able to provide further assistance.
Nevertheless, Prince Turki offered the US a possible exit strategy for Afghanistan. NATO and the US, he said, together with Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Pakistan, should accelerate the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Should these combined forces manage to catch both men, the prince suggested, it would rob the terrorists of their "aura of invincibility." Then the US could "declare victory" and withdraw its troops.