WikiLeaks: Karzai Family Panic after Afghan Presidential Elections
Dispatches show anxiety of Hamid Karzai’s family and supporters, and US doubts about president’s volatility.
Two of Hamid Karzai’s brothers planned to ask for asylum in the US, while other family members stayed away and kept their money out of Afghanistan – so anxious were they that the Afghan president would lose last year’s election.
In the end, following a campaign marked by massive fraud, Karzai was re-elected after being forced into a second round.
The panic during the long counting process in August 2009 is revealed in secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. “Karzai’s side is in some disarray,” says a dispatch from Francis Ricciardone, the US deputy ambassador in Kabul. It quotes three Karzai advisers as admitting they knew fraud had been committed by their side.
The Karzai family feared major violence could break out amid intelligence reports that Mohammed Atta, a northern warlord opposed to Karzai, and other powerbrokers were arming their followers.
Read related article “WikiLeaks cables reveal panic after Afghan presidential elections” in the Guardian here.
Document 1: Cables reveal Karzai family panic after Afghan elections.
Friday, 28 August 2009, 06:58
S E C R E T KABUL 002597
EO 12958 DECL: 08/27/2029
TAGS PGOV, PREL, PINS, AF
SUBJECT: POST-ELECTION POSTURING AND THE U.S. MESSAGE:
Classified By: Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (S) Summary: In a series of meetings August 27, Deputy Ambassador Ricciardone stressed to the Karzai government that we are concerned about any attempts to pressure the elections process and institutions. He pressed the GIRoA publicly to reaffirm its support for the integrity of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) processes, which must be free of interference from any quarter. The three senior Karzai advisors all stated that they knew fraud had been committed – “on both sides” – and warned of the possibility of violence. End summary.
MOI Atmar: The Other Side is Arming
2. (S) MOI Hanif Atmar told Ambassador Ricciardone of an urgent need to investigate growing intelligence reports that Balkh Governor Atta and other warlords/powerbrokers are arming their followers in possible preparation for violence. He gave us a two-page report (forwarded to RAO) in Dari, detailing names and numbers of AK-47’s and RPGs – totalling 2-300 weapons, he said. While there is no immediate need for action, he said, he expressed concern that the warlord “standard practice” is to keep some of his militia demobilized but ready, and place the rest of it in the police force. Governor Atta, therefore, has the means at his disposal to call up a small force of armed men, Atmar said. Atmar asked the international community to watch Mazar and Kabul closely, as well as Konduz, for subversive activities there. He said he had also asked RC-North Commander to join in investigating the deaths of two IEC officials on election day, and the disappearance of the balloting materials they were carrying, in Nahr-i-Shaki district.
3. (S) Atmar stated that the GIRoA believes Abdullah himself is sincerely trying to keep his followers from violence, but that Atta and others do not necessarily plan to obey him. Atmar was less concerned about Rabbani and Qanooni, who he termed “no longer the key players”. Ricciardone emphasized that we had delivered firm messages to Abdullah, Atta and others that their political future rested on their restraint during this period.
4. (S) Turning to the issue of fraud and the possible quarantine of thousands of ballot boxes coming from disputed areas, mainly in the South, Atmar complained that the result will be disenfranchisement of Pashtuns who will be bitter that they are on the front line of terror but that their votes are not counted. He urged that whole provinces not be quarantined for this reason. He also said it was important at this point to avoid any public speculation about a second round of votes. The international community should protect the “rule of law” by encouraging everyone to bring their fraud complaints to the ECC; and the international community should also speak out publicly against any violence or preparation for violence. He alleged that stories of a falling out between the U.S. and Karzai immediately after the election had been a “green light” to Atta and others.
5. (C) In response, Ricciardone warned against any GIRoA attempt to personalize a serious foreign policy issue over the integrity of the election process. He noted the incredible sensitivity of the Pashtun vote, but pointed out that the international community was in a very difficult position – there are so many credible allegations of fraud we cannot pretend these alleged acts didn’t happen and should not affect the outcome, he said. The IEC must be allowed to do its work without pressure, Ricciardone said. Some of its officials reportedly feel under pressure to ignore or obscure fraudulent interference. Atmar agreed and said that all must take an aggressive line against fraud. When asked if President Karzai would state publicly his support for the IEC and ECC, however, Atmar said that the Presidential spokesman had already made such statements in an August 26 press conference, as Atmar on August 25 promised Ricciardone to make happen. However, Karzai remained unwilling to make sure a public statement personally – in part due to suspicions that the USG and UNAMA were pushing for a second round “no matter what” the actual results might be. Karzai’s suspicions were renewed by statements attributed to UNAMA Deputy Peter Galbraith, in which he allegedly told the ECC to quarantine twenty percent of the vote. Nonetheless, Atmar promised to ask Karzai again to make such a statement. “Karzai is trying to make the international community worried,” Atmar said, which Riccardone said was akin to holding a gun to his own head and threatening to shoot.
6. (S) On the subject of the integrity of the process, Atmar admitted he had to be careful about any contact that he has with the ECC or others that could be construed as pressure. (Ricciardone had pressed Atmar the night of August 25 regarding the “threat” perceived by FEFA chief Naderi from Atmar’s “warning” to him earlier that day against inciting violence.) He did not attempt to deny that some are trying to make the IEC “just lose” votes that are over-the-top fraud on Karzai’s behalf. However, Atmar bristled at the implication that anyone in the IEC, ECC or NGO community was under serious pressure or threat, and offered police protection to anyone who felt they needed it. Ricciardone repeated the U.S. position that we supported the process, whether or not that leads to a second round, because our strategic goals in Afghanistan can only be accomplished through a partnership with a president considered to be legitimately elected.
Omer Daudzai: On Message – We Support IEC, ECC
7. (S) Earlier on August 27, Ambassadors Ricciardone and Carney raised election issues with Presidential Chief of Staff Omer Daudzai. They stressed the need for a visible legitimate process to counter the reality of many reports of fraud, both from the Karzai side and from Abdullah,s side. They argued that overzealous supporters risk harming President Karzai’s eventual chances, since he might have won even without cheating. By resorting to fraud, such Karzai supporters were running a serious risk of an “own goal.” Daudzai emphasized that any possible fraud on Karzai’s behalf had not been directed by the Palace.
8. (S) After some discussion of President Karzai,s perceptions of U.S. desire for a second round, Daudzai underscored the requirement that no one undermine the authority of the two commissions, IEC and ECC. &We will not,8 he affirmed, adding that they just need to do their job. Ambassador Ricciardone urged that the presidential spokesman or Karzai himself publicly respond to charges of electoral fraud with a vigorous affirmation of support for the IEC/ECC to do their jobs without intererence. Such a statement might chastise even the president,s own supporters if, in an excess of zeal, they committed fraud. This also might help protect Karzai when the IEC/ECC announces a quarantine of ballots supporting President Karzai. Daudzai nodded but did not commit to a statement.
9. (C) The two also discussed the risk of any possible elections-related demonstrations getting out of hand. Daudzai, speaking “on instructions”, asked for the Embassy and Palace to work together to prevent such demonstrations. Daudzai said that a plan is needed and asked the Embassy to speak to Dr. Abdullah. Ambassador Ricciardone noted that Ambassador Eikenberry recently and repeatedly had stressed to Dr. Abdullah and other candidates and supporters the need for stability and peace; SRAP Holbrooke likewise had pointed out to Governor Atta the need for calm to ensure the country stays together. Ambassador Carney added that he had spoken to Mirwais Yasini and to minor candidate Sarwar Ahmedzai on August 26 with the same message of the need to ensure calm. Yaseni had agreed completely, saying that even a five-person demonstration could get out of hand.
FM Spanta – No Fair Losers in Afghanistan
10. (C) Visiting CODEL Bordallo, with D/AMB Ricciardone, pressed the same issue on August 27 with FM Spanta. Spanta candidly stated that “there are no fair losers” in Afghanistan and every side is ready to claim fraud or foreign interference. That said, he argued that the dimensions of fraud (that he readily admitted had occured) were not so much that the elections will be derailed. Pressed further, Spanta said that he thought the eventual loser of the election would come around to support the winner – if the international community helps. To ensure peace, he said, the final outcome should somehow “not exclude” the losing side. Spanta, who said Karzai had “never had a policy to commit fraud” emphasized his support for the work of the IEC and ECC.
11. (S) Note: Our contacts among Karzai’s insiders report that Karzai’s side is in some disarray. Karzai family and friends reportedly are keeping their families and their funds out of the country and two of Karzai’s brothers are preparing U.S. refugee petitions. Their personal protection if violence occurs is probably not the army, but instead the network of private security companies — especially the Asia Security Group, owned by Karzai’s family. The sources allege that Karzai side’s fraud had not been centrally organized – and in fact was so obvious that it had become counter-productive. In one source’s hearing, a Karzai campaign manager was teased by others that he’d clearly “stacked” the papers in one box, when you are supposed to make it look like 300 individuals dropped the papers in. End Note.
12. (U) CODEL Bordallo did not clear this message.
Document 2: S/SRAP HOLBROOKE’S AUG 22 MEETING WITH SRSG KAI.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009, 09:26
C O N F I D E N T I A L KABUL 002523
EO 12958 DECL: 08/25/2019
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: S/SRAP HOLBROOKE’S AUG 22 MEETING WITH SRSG KAI
EIDE AND DSRSG GALBRAITH ON ELECTION SCENARIO PLANNING
Classified By: Amb. Timothy M. Carney for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary. Ambassadors Holbrooke, Eikenberry, and Ricciardone discussed post-election day scenarios with SRSG Kai Eide, DSRSG Galbraith, and UNDP two days after election day. They agreed that candidates would most likely use rationales of fraud and Pashtun disenfranchisement to discredit the outcome of elections. UNDP’s Margie Cook expressed confidence the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) could together effectively detect fraud and invalidate ballots where necessary. Participants agreed that the IEC, UN, and international partners should all strive to remain silent when it came to predictions or probabilities of various outcomes. There was shared concern about the specter of a disgruntled candidate preemptively declaring victory and sparking civil unrest. End Summary.
2. (C) On August 22, Ambassadors Eikenberry, Holbrooke, and Ricciardone met with UNAMA SRSG Kai Eide, DSRSG Peter Galbraith, and UNDP Chief Electoral Advisor Margie Cook. The focus of the meeting was scenario planning for the outcome of the election results. Principals exchanged views on the outcomes that were likely in terms of the two key candidates. They noted that the two rationales that would likely be used by the leading candidate camps to challenge the legitimacy of the elections would be fraud and the disenfranchisement of Pashtuns. While there are various accounts of voter turnout in Pashtun areas, the general view is that the numbers were far lower than in the rest of the country.
3. (C) S/SRAP Holbrooke, evaluating the prospect of the election being stolen through fraudulent behavior, expressed concern that this would undermine the legitimacy of the government and paralyze it from carrying out the priorities the government urgently needs to address. Ms. Cook noted that fraud had already been detected, including in the Pul-e-Charkhi area of Kabul where ballot boxes had been stuffed days before the elections. UNDP and IEC have already decided to nullify these ballots, she reported. She expected fraud occurred in a number of insecure areas of the country. Ms. Cook reassured the group that there were seven different trigger points in the IEC’s tally process to detect fraud and expressed confidence that this process could quarantine and make void fraudulent ballots, even those from insecure areas. She expressed confidence that the ECC would have the will to disqualify a large percentage of votes, even if there would be significant political consequences.
4. (C) The principals agreed that it was important not to say anything publicly about the probability of either Hamid Karzai or Abdullah Abdullah securing the “50 plus one” percentage of votes necessary for a first round win. There was general concern about one of the campaigns preemptively declaring victory and potentially setting off a chain of disruptive events as witnessed in Iran, Kenya, or Zimbabwe. There was particular concern that one of the candidate’s supporters might orchestrate protests and unrest in the major provincial centers. There was concurrence about the importance of stressing to all of the major candidates that they should not make announcements claiming victory until the results were announced by the IEC and that they would respect the process. Ambassador Holbrooke noted that he would stress this point with all three candidates.
5. (C) The meeting participants also agreed that it was important to ensure the Chairperson of the IEC not make any predictions about the outcome of the elections until the preliminary results were announced. It was agreed that Ambassador (Ret.) Tim Carney would visit Dr. Ludin to reinforce the point that he should stay on message for the sake of integrity of the process. (Note: Amb. Carney delivered this message on August 24. End Note.) Ms. Cook expressed concern that IEC Chairman Ludin had indicated to the press that he would start providing some details of results elections on August 22 and she opined it would take at least until August 25 for enough information to be collected to make a correct preliminary partial announcement. The IEC now plans to announce partial preliminary results, perhaps of ten percent of the tally, late afternoon of August 25.
Document 3: ‘We are not just another imperialist force’ in Afghanistan.
Tuesday, 01 September 2009, 14:52
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002658
EO 12958 DECL: 08/25/2019
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: FM BILDT AGREES ON NEXT STEPS IN AFGHANISTAN
REF: KABUL 2636
Classified By: PolCouns Annie Pforzheimer for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY: Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt agreed, in an August 31 meeting with Ambassador Eikenberry, to a post-election course of action for the international community in Afghanistan. Minister Bildt expressed his fears over Afghan perceptions of the upcoming conference of Special Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) to be held in Paris September 2. We corrected his misperceptions over a reported rift between SRAP Holbrooke and President Karzai. End Summary.
Looking at the Next Five Years
2. (C) Looking ahead to the resolution of the presidential election, Ambassador Eikenberry laid out five key steps which we recommend that the international community should observe, as we have, when engaging with both Abdullah and Karzai, but particularly the incumbent:
— first, both leading candidates should understand we are paying close attention to their conduct in this interim period before the certification of the vote, and that their conduct will impact their relationship with the international community thereafter, whether as President or in another capacity.
— secondly, the next President shoudl understand that we will scrutinize closely his ministerial appointments for competence and commitment to good governance.
— third, the next President’s first major policy speeches, including his inauguration speech, will set the tone for his second administration and offer an opportunity to establish a compact with his people. Minister Bildt noted that Karzai might use such a speech to confront the international community.
— fourth, as the President begins his new administration, he must take significant, visible acts to deliver his compact, for example by acting boldly against corruption.
— fifth and finally, if the next President accomplishes the first four steps well, we should accept an invitation from him to a ministerial conference in Kabul, to solidify the relationship between the international community and the new administration and to bolster its legitimacy domestically and internationally.
3. (C) Minister Bildt assented to all five points, and noted that the conference of foreign ministers could be a key moment in which to emphasize more Afghan ownership of the political landscape following the election.
Setting the Stakes for a Second Administration
4. (C) Expressing concern that President Karzai still seems to think that we are here on an expeditionary mission to kill foreign fighters operating in Afghanistan and that he is just renting land to us for that purpose, Ambassador Eikenberry proposed that the second administration could be an opportunity to clarify anew the relationship between the international community and the Karzai administration. First, we must disabuse President Karzai of the notion that we are just another imperialist force or that we are really here because of China and because we want bases here for strategic regional purposes. Heretofore, President Karzai has expressed negligible political interest in the development of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), key components of a successful sovereign nation. We need to give him long-term security guarantees so that he will understand the importance of investing in these institutions, Eikenberry said, while assuring him that we will continue to support Afghanistan’s security infrastructure as an element of their sovereign nation.
5. (C) A key agenda item for a second Karzai administration could be the reconciliation process. Ambassador Eikenberry questioned Bildt whether this would pose a public relations problem with the domestic audiences of the European Union. The reconciliation effort, he noted, could be a key opportunity for the Karzai administration to show progress in the development of Afghan governance. Until now, the reconciliation process has been marred by a lack of infrastructure and resources, both of which the international community could help to provide. Bildt assured us that reconciliation would not be a problem in Europe unless it was perceived as rolling back women’s rights, educational development, and other key human rights issues. He noted
KABUL 00002658 002 OF 002
there were constitutional constraints in Europe to supporting programs representing an erosion of human rights in Afghanistan, but affirmed that he did not see any evidence that could support an argument along those lines. The delegation called for the Afghans to establish a precise concept for integration before the process can begin.
Maintaining the Legitimacy of the Elections
6. (C) Minister Bildt expressed concerns that the legitimacy of the election was being called into question. He noted that while the conference in Paris of special representatives was “perfectly normal and routine,” it had been “blown up” by the press, who were insinuating that the special representatives would emerge from closed doors at the conference and declare the winner of the election. Ambassador Eikenberry said that the same message had been relayed to him by a group of pro-Karzai parliamentarians who had called at the Embassy on August 30 (reftel). Likewise, Eikenberry noted that Karzai has begun to express great frustration with the international media, whom he claims are pitted against him and are trying to undermine the credibility of the elections by exaggerating claims of fraud. Eikenberry also noted that Karzai and his supports may attack the findings of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) as biased, because it has foreigners in key leadership positions.
Smoothing Relations with the Palace
7. (C) Responding to Minister Bildt’s statement that both President Karzai and Foreign Minister Spanta had “stern words” that were “not directed at me,” on the subject of post-election posturing, Eikenberry explained the miscommunication that had occurred between Karzai and SRAP Holbrooke regarding the possibility of a second round of elections: Holbrooke had stated in a phone call with other Special Representatives that, if there were to be a second round, the international community would need to coordinate to support the effort. This was misreported to the Afghan government as USG advocacy for holding a second round, no matter the final results of the IEC’s election process. Eikenberry reassured Bildt that he had worked closely with FM Spanta and President Karzai to dispel this myth; the story seemed to have blown over, and relations between the U.S. and President Karzai were and back on track.
Document 4: Karzai accuses US of funding his electoral opponents.
Thursday, 03 September 2009, 10:41
S E C R E T KABUL 002681
EO 12958 DECL: 09/02/2019
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: KARZAI ON ELECTIONS AND THE FUTURE: SEPTEMBER 1
MEETING AT THE PALACE
Classified By: Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (S) Summary: In our weekly meeting September 1, President Karzai was confident, lucid and open to areas of post-election cooperation should he be named the winner. We discussed the need to support the ongoing elections process, and he indicated that his negotiations with other candidates was entering a final phase. He is likely to attend the UNGA. On the post-election compact he was aware of the need to rebuild trust with the international community, in particular through merit-based appointments to the Cabinet and at a sub-national level. He appears committed to some form of a “Jirga” to solidify his government’s legitimacy. End summary.
Elections End Game
2. (S) A relaxed President Karzai met with me for over an hour on September 1, accompanied only by National Security Advisor Rasoul. We touched on the media back-and-forth over the alleged SRAP/Karzai rift (a recent Cabinet meeting was reportedly acrimonious about U.S. “intervention” in the elections, but Karzai finally rejected the idea of a confrontational press conference) and Karzai accepted my statement that this was “old news” which we should put behind us. I reiterated our support for the elections process and institutions.
3. (S) Karzai told me that at his meeting with Ghani the night before, Ghani had offered to play the role of “intermediary” with the United States. I told Karzai that he had many of those already. Karzai said that Ghani had stopped short of pledging his support but wants to play a “useful” role. Mirwais Yasini, with whom he met on August 30, had allegedly been offered USD 100,000 by Abdullah but is close to accepting a role in Karzai’s team, Karzai said. Karzai then raised concerns about Iranian influence in the election, through funding of Abdullah to the tune of USD 80-100 million. I replied that we think Iran had given money to all the candidates; Karzai did not disagree. On Iran’s motivations, I said that it seemed less logical for them to want instability in Afghanistan but that we are more concerned than we were a year ago. Karzai stated that he sees Pakistan and Iran potentially collaborating to destabilize Afghanistan and act against the United States.
4. (S) Karzai said that “reports” indicated that the United States was also funding Abdullah. I strongly challenged him and stated that we are not funding any candidate. I further noted that repeating these kinds of rumors and unsourced reports was unproductive.
5. (S) We discussed the international media and the renewed focus on “warlords”, particularly Fahim Khan. I said that while newspapers are independent and the timing of their articles is not under our control, our position on Fahim was well known and we would not dissimulate. I pointed out that, in fact, Karzai was not above using this issue to his own advantage. He gained considerable political advantage by bringing Dostum back to Afghanistan on the eve of elections, but that thanks to international attention to Dostum’s past and Dostum’s fear of arrest on human rights crimes, he immediately went back to Turkey and would not pose an internal political problem. Karzai agreed, noting that Dostum’s ability to rally the Uzbek vote had exceeded his own expectations. When asked if this was loyalty or fear, Karzai said it was hard to say but it was very clear that in five years, Dostum’s kind of influence would be far less as his party (Jumbesh) matures and old affiliations become diluted.
5. (U) Karzai asked my advice about attending the UN General Assembly. I noted that even if the final election results are not known, he is head of state and should attend as such. However, I said, there would likely be no meetings at that time in Washington, per the normal procedures of the UNGA period. We did not discuss any possibilities of a bilateral meeting.
Looking Ahead: A Promise to Vet Appointments
6. (S) I laid out with Karzai the way forward in five steps for a new government to win credibility and legitimacy, both at home and with international partners. First, I said, the credibility of the elections is vital not least in view of the extraordinary efforts and investment of the international community. Karzai agreed, and said that he was sure of victory – at 53-54 percent, a much lower figure than he has used previously. I said we were aware that insecurity had worked against the turnout in areas he normally would have expected to be his strongholds. Karzai said he plans to make a speech September 2 that will affirm his government’s support of the process; however, he immediately added, can the U.S. do anything to make the ECC and IEC work faster to produce a final result? I replied that we are keeping our distance from the IEC and EEC in order to make sure we are not viewed as in any way trying to influence their work, and advised him to do the same since a credibile election process helps the next president be viewed as legitimate. (Note: Karzai decided on September 2 not to make a public statement. End Note.)
7. (S) The second step will be the restoration of trust with the international community and the Afghan people through merit-based appointments of key ministers and governors to carry out the work of the new administration. For example, I said, re-appointing Ismael Khan based on political favors rendered will send entirely the wrong signal – he is not competent to run a ministry, much less one in which there is considerable donor support and interest. He also mentioned the possibility of giving Nangarhar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai a key ministry, for example Transportation (which may be reorganized into sector-specific Ministries combined with the Ministry of Public Works). I strongly objected to this idea and Karzai admitted that Gul Agha would probably “destroy civilian aviation” if given control of it. I also flagged the importance of the Ministry of Mines, one of Afghanistan’s key areas of potential wealth generation, and he noted the Ministry of Higher Education. Karzai gave his word that he will “absolutly consult with the United States” before making new appointments. He expects that his political supporters will give him lists of constituents for the posts they were promised, so he can choose the best qualified ones.
8. (S) Karzai took on board the three final steps I outlined – announcing his “compact” with his own people in his inaugural speech; delivering early results on that compact, for example by prosecuting high-level targets on corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism or other major crimes; and finally, hosting a ministerial conference on Afghanistan in Kabul — which Afghanistan’s major supporters would accept provided a re-elected Karzai accomplishes the first four steps. On the “compact” idea, Karzai understood the example of the 1994 “Contract with America” and saw how it could serve at the same time as an agreement with the international community.
9. (S) He asked me if the U.S. opposed a Jirga, and if we do, if it is because we fear the possibility of a Jirga asking for a Status of Forces Agreement with the United States. I pointed out that we do not necessarily oppose a Jirga but we do see this as potentially undermining the institutions that are in place for consultation, such as Parliament. Karzai said that Jirgas have a strong traditional resonance and its purpose would be to renew Afghan support for the international presence, and give that support a real “grassroots” basis. I noted that a SOFA at this point is not a reasonable step, given the state of Afghanistan’s legal system, but that some kind of new operational understanding could be a good idea.
10. (S) Finally, on the issue of reconciliation, Karzai affirmed that he wants to move ahead and to keep Afghanistan in the lead, within the existing guidelines that reconciled Taliban must reject international terrorism, forswear violence, and promise to abide by the constitution. He sees two basic levels – the commanders and fighters in the field, and the high-level approaches, including the Quetta shura. The initiative should be announced as a nation-wide policy, but be conducted at local levels as appropriate. I concurred and asked who would be in the lead within the GIRoA; he said that the Independent Directorate of Local Government, and the Disarmament of Illegally Armed Groups, as well as the National Directorate of Security, were the right mechanisms. I said that the international community and especially the United States would like to help with funding and organizational support, but that our funding has restrictions which make it vital that we understand which Afghan structures will conduct reconciliation efforts.
Document 5: Karzai asks defence minister: ‘Can you manage without the US?’
Thursday, 10 September 2009, 15:34
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002768
EO 12958 DECL: 09/10/2019
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: ABDULLAH THOUGHTFUL ABOUT HIS NEXT MOVE
REF: KABUL 2767
Classified By: D/Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (S) In a meeting September 9, presidential challenger Dr. Abdullah Abdullah told Ambassador Eikenberry that he had not anticipated the elections process taking so long. While he wanted to let the process play out completely he might rethink his next move in view of whether a second round would occur sufficiently soon truly to benefit the country. End Summary.
Still Under Pressure – But Calm
2. (S) We met Abdullah late at night, alone with one notetaker, after his long day which included a ceremony commemorating the eighth anniversary of the death of his mentor, Massoud. Tired but relaxed, Abdullah exhibited some of his usual humor — he noted that he’d said hello to IEC Chairman Ludin but not kissed him at the ceremony; Ludin said “don’t turn your face from me” and Abdullah had replied “I won’t if you don’t turn YOUR face from Mecca” – a Dari expression for lying. The ceremony had been well-attended by former Mujahedin, who are currently on either side of the presidential race; Abdullah said that “only Massoud’s spirit” could have unified such a group. He claimed he was the only one who got standing ovations from the crowd.
3. (S) Abdullah complained that the Ministry of Interior was circulating a letter accusing him and his supporters, such as Balkh Governor Atta, of distributing weapons (reftel). He called this an “irresponsible” allegation and counter-accused the government of distributing weapons to self-defense groups in Konduz and Balkh as part of a widespread program. Saying that he doesn’t want “anything to ignite anywhere” he added that in this highly emotional time, the difference between rumors and facts must be clarified. Eikenberry said that we have looked into these allegations and found no areas of concern. Abdullah added that he has recently completed his round of consultations with all his provincial supporters and has discouraged demonstrations since they could become excuses for violence.
I Didn’t Think it Would Take So Long
4. (S) Ambassador Eikenberry stressed to Abdullah that his conduct during the campaign, and now, has made him a national figure with a real future in Afghan politics. He reiterated the U.S. position that we are committed to a credible process and noted that the most senior U.S. leadership was interested in learning about Dr. Abdullah’s thoughts on a way forward. Eikenberry noted that we were now faced with an issue that complicates the process: the possibility that the partial recount that the ECC has ordered could extend into the winter season; if so, a second round, if it were ordered, could not be held until Spring 2010. He noted that a failure of the elections process would have a huge impact in the United States, given the many years of effort and commitment we have given to Afghanistan. A successful campaign process and good day of voting, all led by the Afghans for the first time, are being overshadowed by the current stalemate.
5. (S) Abdullah appeared subdued as he responded that he didn’t want such a long period of uncertainty; he thought that disqualifying obvious fraud would have brought Karzai’s number below 50 percent long before now. “I can take it for longer, but what about the country?” he asked, noting that Karzai would keep making decisions anyway during the period of uncertainty, and that his own followers were in danger of harassment or worse, and some teachers who supported him had lost their jobs. The ECC “has guts” he said – but “how long will it take?” A process dragging on until April could jeopardize public opinion in the United States, which like all public opinion is “fickle.” U.S. support, once lost, will not come back, he said. Abdullah also admitted the strong possibility of Karzai winning a second round.
Abdullah on Karzai: Holding the Nation Hostage
6. (S) Abdullah indulged in a variety of criticisms of Karzai, saying that he was working for his own interests against those of the whole country. Abdullah said Karzai reportedly asked his Defense Minister “Your ANA can manage without the Americans, can’t it?” but the answer was “We get 400,000 liters of petrol a day from them; without them, we’d end our operations in two days.”
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7. (S) When Karzai’s people had approached him three months ago, Abdullah said, he refused to join them because “I couldn’t influence him when he had good people around him, and now he has bad people advising him.” He gave Karzai two messages at that time: don’t run for president, you will have a great legacy and wipe away all your mistakes if you give up power; or if you do run, don’t try to rig the elections. Now, Abdullah said, Karzai will keep digging in, whatever the damage to Afghanistan, and “we’re all stuck” with him. Abdullah ended with the acerbic note that “the one thing that bothers me is that we shouldn’t allow one person to hold the destiny of the nation hostage.”
What Next? The Good of the Country
8. (S) Abdullah admitted that he had been “approached” recently by Karzai’s National Security Advisor about a deal to end the election standoff, but clarified that it was “not a dialogue” since he wanted to take his time and let the process run its course. He was also approached by the brother of Karzai’s Vice Presidential running mate (and fellow Panjshiri) Marshall Fahim, who warned him that he would not have support in a second round and should make a deal now. Abdullah said that Karzai has talked to some of his supporters, such as former President Rabbani, but that he sees no way that he “himself” would take part in a Karzai government — leaving open the possibility that one of his associates may do so. The Ambassador noted that despite rumors that the United States was pushing a national unity government, we have never done so; Abdullah said he believed us and appreciated our support for the process.
9. (S) Looking at his future, Abdullah said that while he wanted to create a national and cross-ethnic movement which could become a true political party, he could not see any point in focusing on Parliamentary elections in 2010 given the IEC’s corruption and double-dealing in this election. Some “good MP’s” told him they won’t survive the next election due to IEC corruption, he said. The IEC has had to put aside ballots in this election because the results can’t possibly be entered into their computers due to the fraud controls – but then they “play with words” and refuse to invalidate those ballots. Their actions are a “tragic joke” he said, adding that the problem for Karzai’s camp and the IEC turned out to be that they had planned on a higher turnout which would have covered up fraud. Abdullah expressed anger at some of the most egregious examples of fraud — noting that rural Paktika province apparently had the same number of voters as Balkh (whose capital is populous Mazar-e-Sharif).
10. (S) Being in the opposition would be a hard and vulnerable position, Abdullah said, but capitalizing on this new political movement was crucial because it is the only “healthy” movement with a chance to expand. Abdullah noted that he had supported a large number of Provincial Council candidates during the election, after vetting them carefully first. He believes that many did very well in their provinces and can become a base for future political leadership; he is maintaining a network of linkages for such a future movement. Karzai had had a ‘golden opportunity’, Abdullah said, but ruined it and is only “declining.” The country is vulnerable to ethnic fascism, extremism, drug trafficking, and organized crime — all of which interests will oppose the national movement he hopes to create, and all of which are allied with Karzai, he alleged.
11. (S) Abdullah exhorted the U.S. not to give up on the process yet, saying that “expediency for immediate concerns” could undermine the rule of law and that longer term interests should not be sacrificed to shorter term ones. Eikenberry acknowledged that there were competing imperatives of the credibility of the process and pressures of time, telling Abdullah he should make political choices to help the situation knowing that he is at a period of maximum influence. Abdullah gave no immediate indication of his next move but agreed to remain in close contact.
Document 6: Cables say Obama’s troop reductions were a military recommendation.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009, 09:57
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 004027
EO 12958 DECL: 12/15/2019
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: KARZAI ON ANSF, CABINET, AND 2010 ELECTIONS
REF: KABUL 3973
Classified By: Ambassador K. Eikenberry reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (S) Summary: President Karzai reiterated to Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Eikenberry on December 14 his commitment to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) development, Interior Ministry (MOI) reform, and to obtaining sufficient security force recruits and training. Although Karzai’s reported cabinet picks appear generally positive, he is still considering Ismail Khan for Energy and Water. He told us that a few months’ delay in the 2010 Parliamentary elections is necessary and that he is considering holding a Loya Jirga afterwards. End Summary.
Karzai Focused on ANSF
2. (S) In a meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, Ambassador Eikenberry, Defense Minister Wardak, Presidential Chief of Staff Daudzai, National Security Advisor Rassoul, Deputy National Security Advisor Shaydah, Presidential Press Spokesperson Houmanzada, and Afghan National Army Chief of Staff Bismillah Khan on December 14, President Karzai appeared relaxed although admittedly tired and in need of a vacation. Karzai said he planned to take three or four days vacation in Europe between conferences in London, Munich and Davos. He appeared more helpful and committed to ANSF development than ever, expressing interest in obtaining sufficient recruits to reflect geographic and ethnic balances, and a commitment to establishing a training timeline.
3. (S) Defense Minister Wardak said Army recruitment was improving; last month’s return of 873 formerly AWOL soldiers to their units was a promising sign. Admiral Mullen noted that the 2011 drawdown date was not a political decision, but rather, a U.S. military recommendation. Karzai said that if the Afghan government was over half way to the 2011 ANSF recruitment and training goals, it would be a success. (Comment: Although Karzai was clearly attempting to manage expectations, he also seemed to be personally vested in this endeavor — a positive, and relatively new development. End Comment.) Karzai said he will have his Defense Minister and Chief of Defense, “on the road frequently” to ensure this project moved forward.
4. (S) Karzai inquired whether ANSF expansion would include only an increase in training, or also an increase in more sophisticated military equipment for Afghan internal defense. Admiral Mullen said the United States would continue to equip the Afghan forces for counter-insurgency operations, since the territorial defense was not currently a priority, especially considering the U.S. strategic defense relationship with Afghanistan. Wardak further noted that more heavy weapons were need for the ANA over time to increase their capability to defend themselves, and could also be used to fight the Taliban. Admiral Mullen responded that Afghanistan’s military requirements will naturally evolve over time, but emphasized that heavy weaponry was not needed at present.
5. (S) Ambassador Eikenberry mentioned how successful the 2003 Ministry of Defense (MOD) reform was to this institution, noting that the 2006 MOI reform was neither as comprehensive nor as successful. President Karzai agreed, and noted — characteristically — that this was due to the failures of UNAMA, the United States, and the E.U. When Eikenberry noted the serious problems in the senior MOI leadership, Karzai acknowledged this was also an important issue. He preferred, however, to work on MOI reform with the United States, not the E.U. or UNAMA.
Non-U.S. NATO Troops Can Stay Home
6. (S) Karzai asked if the other NATO countries were committed to sending 7,000 non-U.S. NATO troops, and if so, would those numbers be several contributions of 100-200 troops, or larger commitments by a fewer countries. He remarked that if the commitments are small contingents from many nations, it would be more of a “headache.” He quipped that if these countries only announced their plan to deploy additional troops, without actually sending them, it would be easier. Admiral Mullen noted the political significance of these troop commitments, despite the challenges they might entail. Admiral Mullen asked Karzai for his assessment of NATO ISAF efforts to limit civilian casualties. Karzai responded that General McChrystal was doing an excellent job
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with his instructions to limit civilian casualties because of the emphasis he placed on restricting the use of aerial bombardments. However, he said more needed to be done with the Special Operations troops, noting recent reports from Laghman Province of civilian casualties during two separate operations.
Skepticism on Pakistan
7. (S) Karzai expressed concern over Pakistan, noting that the Taliban may decide to lay low there until 2011. Admiral Mullen replied that if the Taliban decided to give that security space to the Afghans, it would be to our advantage, as it would allow time for the ANSF and security to be built up sufficiently to defend themselves. Karzai appeared to accept this answer. Ambassador Eikenberry emphasized that the United States shared Afghan concerns over Pakistan providing sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban, but noted Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi had stated publicly at the recent IISS Manama Dialogue in Bahrain that there was an Afghan-Pakistani Taliban nexus — a possible signal of an evolution in their thinking. He also stated, however, that Pakistan was focused, at present, on its greater threat, the Pakistan Taliban. Minister Wardak said he had received contrary reports that the Pakistani Army was helping the Afghan Taliban obtain sanctuary in cities “deeper into Pakistan.”
8. (S) President Karzai told Eikenberry after Admiral Mullen’s departure, with FM Spanta and NSC Rassoul in attendance, that he still had no date for his cabinet announcement but that he had asked the Parliament to remain in session for the time being. He plans on giving Parliament about 75 percent of the cabinet list and expects Parliamentary support for “almost all” of his nominations. He said the National Security Ministers would stay on (reftel), as well as the Finance, Commerce, Communications, Agriculture and Health Ministers.
9. (S) Karzai said the current Higher Education Minister Dafur would be replaced by the current Governor of Kabul Zabihollah Mojadedi, or an unnamed senior university official. Education Minister Wardak would move to the Palace’s Office of Administrative Affairs (OAA), while MRRD Zia would be given an ambassadorship and his deputy Wais Ahmad Barmak would replace him. He said he would appoint a technically qualified individual as the Minister of Mines, and that Nangarhar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai would be given a position involving the construction of roads in urban areas (Note: it was unclear whether this would be Urban Planning or a new position. End Note.) Karzai said the Ministry of Public Works would go to a qualified engineer with a masters degree from a prestigious U.S. university, while Transportation would go to Junbesh party’s Batash (rumored to be a Dostum ally).
10. (S) Karzai invited the group’s views on placing Commerce Minister Shahrani in the Ministry of Mines. Spanta’s endorsement was lukewarm; Ambassador Eikenberry noted Shahrani’s extravagant home, suggesting that the Afghans knew best who is corrupt, a concern Karzai shared. Karzai claimed he would split the Ministry of Information and Culture into just the Ministry of Culture and “downgrade” information responsibilities to an agency. He said he wanted Spanta to stay on, but Spanta said he was not interested in a cabinet-level position. Karzai said Jalali was a possible choice for NSA, but claimed that he insisted on keeping his $13,000/month National Defense University salary. Eikenberry responded that if this were the case, it hardly seemed like a sign of patriotism. Karzai said Atmar was politically “hanging on by a thread” because he was highly disliked for his former communist and excessively pro-Pashtun reputation.
11. (S) Karzai said Ismail Khan was still his choice for Minister of Energy, claiming that Secretary Clinton “agreed to a compromise” after Karzai promised to keep Atmar and appoint competent deputy ministers under Khan. Ambassador Eikenberry countered that Secretary Clinton did not endorse Khan — underscoring that the United States has indicated that Energy and Water is a key U.S. development priority, and that our policy was not to invest in ministries not competently led. Eikenberry added that during his Congressional testimony, all members of the U.S. Congress expressed great concern over the long-term costs of Afghanistan, especially during the current financial crisis.
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If incompetent and corrupt ministers were appointed, it would provide a good reason for them to limit funding. The Ambassador urged Karzai to consider the tradeoffs, and make a decision on what would most benefit the Afghan people and their economic future. He should worry less about pleasing political factions or foreigners, and more on the objective long-term interests of his citizens. Karzai said he would further consider this choice.
12. (S) Karzai mentioned that the 2010 District Council elections could be postponed past 2010, but the Parliamentary elections should only be delayed three to four months. In response to the Ambassador’s concerns about addressing the unsustainable electoral calendar that would eventually bankrupt the Afghan government, Karzai replied that he would like to hold a Loya Jirga sometime in the fall of 2010 to resolve these constitutional issues. He referred to “conspiracy theories” he had heard about the international community’s intentions in delaying the elections that Eikenberry flatly rejected. The Ambassador said the Afghans would have to make the decision whether to delay the elections or not.
13. Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not clear this cable.
Document 7: Clinton stresses Afghanistan troop changes ‘are not withdrawal’.
Thursday, 14 January 2010, 22:48
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 STATE 004108
EO 12958 DECL: 01/14/2019
TAGS AF, MARR, MOPS, NATO, PREL
SUBJECT: CLARIFYING THE TRANSITION TO AFGHAN LEAD
Classified By: Acting A/S Nancy McEldowney for Reasons 1.4(b,d)
For the Ambassador or Charge
SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST
1. (SBU) The Department requests action addressees clarify for host governments at the highest possible level the planning process for ISAF transition to Afghan lead at the provincial level, emphasizing that discussion of this issue must not be mischaracterized as a plan for the imminent withdrawal of ISAF forces. In order for provincial transition to occur, certain criteria pertaining to security as well as governance and development will have to be met. As the President stated on December 1, it is important that we increase our commitments to the mission now in order to create the conditions to begin to draw down international combat forces beginning in mid-2011.
2. (C) NATO is currently developing an annex to the ISAF Operational Plan that describes the process for a conditions-based, province-by-province transition of Afghan responsibility for security. NATO will discuss the plan, including political considerations, with the intent of achieving North Atlantic Council (NAC) approval prior to the January 28 London Foreign Ministers’ conference on Afghanistan. Welcoming this plan or progress toward it is a key deliverable of the London conference.
3. (C) It is vital that in public messages the transition plan not be confused with an exit plan or timetable. ISAF is currently in Phase 3 (Stabilization) of its five-stage Operational Plan. Phase 4 is Transition and Phase 5 is Redeployment, culminating in withdrawal. Transition has at times been erroneously equated with Transfer of Lead Security Responsibility (TLSR). ISAF Phase 4 Transition refers to a tangible demonstration of progress in the overall stability and security of Afghanistan and Afghan ownership and responsibility, based on rigorous security, governance, and development conditions. Transition will proceed on a province-by-province basis and be gradual. TLSR is an early tactical step in the partnership between Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and ISAF, controlled in theater at the operational level. It is part of the ANSF development process to encourage and accelerate ANSF capability, responsibility, and ownership, not an indication of changes in either ANSF capabilities or the security mission.
4. (C) It is important that our Allies and partners counter erroneous misunderstanding that international support for the Government of Afghanistan is wavering and any false expectation of an imminent withdrawal of ISAF forces. Using the London conference to lay out an exit strategy would send the wrong message to the people of Afghanistan as well as to Allied and partner publics.
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5. (SBU) The Department requests that action addressees report the results of their efforts by front channel cable slugged for EUR/RPM Aaron Cope, S/SRAP, and SCA/A by January 17.
6. (SBU) Action addressees should draw on the following points:
— NATO is currently developing an annex to the ISAF Operational Plan describing the process for a conditions-based, province-by-province transition in consultation with the Government of Afghanistan and other stakeholders as appropriate. After discussing the plan and relevant political considerations, the North Atlantic Council aims to adopt the transition plan prior to the January 28 London Foreign Ministers’ conference on Afghanistan.
— Transition is a tangible demonstration of progress in the overall stability and security of Afghanistan and Afghan ownership and responsibility. Transition will proceed gradually on a province-by-province basis based on rigorous security, governance, and development conditions.
— The specific conditions for provincial transition are the focus of ongoing planning processes and have not been finalized. Transition of individual provinces should be undertaken with extensive consultations among NATO/ISAF, the Afghan government, UNAMA, and other key stakeholders, and only when it is clear that security, governance, and development conditions have been met and can be sustained.
— Transition is not an exit strategy for ISAF, although it is an important step toward fulfilling ISAF’s mission. ISAF will retain supporting, enabling, and mentoring/advising roles throughout transition. International civilians will remain in place and may, in fact, increase as the international mission is civilianized and as conditions allow. The duration of the post-transition international presence will depend on local conditions. ISAF forces no longer required in one province may need to shift to other provinces that are in earlier stages of the transition process. Affected nations participating in the provinces in which transition is taking place will be consulted regarding any necessary changes in force posture.
— It is important to distinguish Transition from Transfer of Lead Security Responsibility (TLSR), which is an early tactical step in the partnership between ANSF and ISAF whereby ISAF forces gradually assume the “supporting” role and ANSF take greater leadership. This process is controlled in theater at the operational level. It is part of the ANSF development process to encourage and accelerate ANSF capability, responsibility, and ownership, not an indication of changes in either ANSF capabilities or the security mission.
— In the wake of President Karzai’s positive commitments in his November 2009 inaugural address, it is particularly important that in publicly discussing transition, ISAF countries neither imply that the commitment of the international community is wavering nor create unrealistic
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public expectations of an imminent reduction in ISAF forces.
— On the contrary, now is the time to reinforce our contributions in Afghanistan, as President Obama stated in his December 1 address, in order to create the conditions that will allow us to begin the process of drawing down combat forces in the summer of 2011.
— Welcoming NATO’s progress in developing a plan for provincial transition could be one useful deliverable of the January 28 international conference in London.
— We expect the conference also will welcome and pledge support for an Afghan-led program of reintegration.
— The conference will have a broader range of outcomes in governance and development as well as civilian coordination, not only security. It will provide Foreign Ministers an important opportunity to welcome GOA plans for initiatives on anti-corruption, sub-national governance, and economic development and to welcome the announcement of the new UN SRSG. The United States believes that the conference also should be able to welcome NATO’s plans to strengthen the mandate for its Senior Civilian Representative.
— While this will not be a pledging conference, we will welcome any additional civilian or military contributions that Allies or partners might announce there. At NATO’s Defense Ministerial meeting on February 4-5 in Istanbul, we will encourage nations to clarify previously pledged commitments to ensure that forces deployed in 2010 have an operational impact.