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Viewing cable 09KABUL1892, KARZAI DIALOGUE ON U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS CONTINUES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KABUL1892 2009-07-16 03:03 2010-12-02 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Kabul
VZCZCXRO8567
PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #1892/01 1970345
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 160345Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0190
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 001892

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/13/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL AF
SUBJECT: KARZAI DIALOGUE ON U.S.-AFGHAN RELATIONS CONTINUES

REF: KABUL 1767

Classified By: Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry for Reasons 1:4 b,d

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY.  President Karzai and I continued our
dialogue on the future of U.S.-Afghan relations (reftel) in
our weekly meeting, July 7.  We were joined by National
Security Advisor Rassoul.  Karzai discussed his priorities
for the next five years as outlined in his draft election
manifesto.  The President's manner was significantly more
relaxed and warm than in meetings the previous week when he
was often agitated, accusing the U.S. of working against him
(reftel).  As a result, our discussion was more constructive
and forward-looking.  When Karzai drifted towards a
reiteration of his anti-U.S. conspiracy theories on several
occasions, I was able to refocus the conversation on how the
U.S. and Afghanistan governments can work together in the
near and medium term to achieve combined success.

REVIEWING KARZAI'S ELECTION MANIFESTO FOR NEXT FIVE YEARS
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (S/NF) As we discussed the long-term goals outlined in
Karzai's draft election manifesto, I reiterated the U.S.
commitment to continuing our close partnership with
Afghanistan, regardless of whom the Afghan people elect in
August.  I then outlined what the U.S. was seeking from the
relationship over the next five years and commented on some
points in Karzai's proposed agenda.  Under President Obama's
strategy for Afghanistan, I noted, we would continue to
pursue a more coherent regional approach, while assisting the
Afghan government build a more secure and economically
sustainable country that would never again permit sanctuary
for international terrorism.  I emphasized the importance of
achieving meaningful progress in the near term to prove to
the U.S. and the international community that our ongoing
investment of lives and resources in Afghanistan was
producing tangible, lasting results for the Afghan people.

3. (S/NF) I took issue with the foreign policy section of
Karzai's draft manifesto which stressed Afghanistan's
relations with the Islamic world and with Palestine, followed
by a rather weak comment on relations with the U.S.  I
pointed out this did not accurately reflect our robust
partnership and raises questions regarding Karzai's
perspective on the bilateral relationship.

4. (S/NF)  I also noted the document's lack of a strong
emphasis on strengthening Afghan National Security Forces
(ANSF) and judicial system.  Five years down the road, I
said, success would be defined by whether the ANSF's
increased capacity allowed it to take the lead in planning
and conducting effective military operations, as well as
apprehending and detaining insurgents under Afghan legal
authority.  (NOTE: We are seeking a translation of the draft
of Karzai's manifesto passed to us earlier this month and
will transmit septel once translation is complete.)

5. (S/NF) Karzai then mentioned that after the election he
planned to call a national jirga to make a recommitment to
the Afghanistan-U.S. relationship and our partnership in the
war against terror.  This would, he claimed, clarify the
military assistance aspect of the relationship and counter
what many Afghan's perceive to be the "unfocused presence" of
international forces, reducing public concerns about those
forces.  (Note: We have since learned that a later draft of
Karzai's manifesto may include this call for a traditional
loya jirga to address the presence of U.S. forces in
Afghanistan.  If true that Karzai intends to convene a
traditional loya jirga instead of a constitutional loya
jirga, it would reflect a disappointing continuation of
Karzai's tendency to govern through reliance on personalities
of the past, rather than on democratic institutions.)

AMBASSADOR: FOCUS SHOULD BE ON AFGHAN GOVT WINNING HEARTS AND
MINDS
--------------------------------------------- --------------

6. (S/NF) Karzai then returned to a familiar theme, his wish
for Afghan-U.S. relations to recover the spirit of 2002-04 -
a period Karzai sees as a "golden age" in the relationship.
He would like for U.S. forces to again be able to drive their
humvees through villages, greeted warmly by villagers who
would shout, "Good morning, Sergeant Thompson."  Karzai
claimed, as he has many times, that his concern over the
erosion of public trust in the U.S. was a driving factor in
his increasingly strident criticism regarding civilian
casualties, night raids and detentions.

7. (S/NF) I reminded Karzai that we had agreed our discussion
would be forward-looking, rather than dwell on past
grievances.  I also reminded him the U.S. and ISAF had made a

KABUL 00001892  002 OF 003

tremendous effort over the past year to avoid civilian
casualties, noting that in a recent engagement in Helmand
where one U.S. marine had been killed and 25 wounded, we had
not employed close air support or artillery.  Karzai agreed
there had been a dramatic reduction in civilian casualty
incidents, saying he intended to make a public statement
noting his gratitude for U.S. efforts.  I welcomed such a
statement, observing that the U.S. continues to bear a heavy
cost for our assistance to Afghanistan in the American lives
lost as we work to ensure a more secure future here.

8. (S/NF) I also took issue with Karzai's "golden age"
perspective, reminding him that I had been in Afghanistan
during this period.  It was clear, even at that time, that
trouble was brewing as the focus on security and
reconstruction drifted and declined due to lack of resources
and a comprehensive strategy.  I urged Karzai to recognize
that President Obama is providing the U.S.-Afghan partnership
with the tools necessary to build a lasting foundation for
Afghanistan's success, based on sustainable security,
accountable government, and a working economy.  I stressed to
Karzai that our primary goal in Afghanistan is not to win
public support for the U.S., but rather to help the Afghan
government win its own people's hearts and minds by enabling
it to provide basic security and effective governance to the
people.  In five years, we expect to still have forces in
Afghanistan, but with the majority as advisors and trainers
in support of ANSF in areas such as logistics, air support,
intelligence, etc.  Returning to Karzai's hopes for the
future, I told him Americans do not long for a day in which
their soldiers are hailed throughout Afghanistan; they are
instead growing impatient for the day a respected Afghan Army
and national police force are fully capable of providing
security to the Afghan populace.  Time is not unlimited.

KARZAI'S ANTI-U.S. RHETORIC UNDERMINES ADVOCACY FOR CONTINUED
SUPPORT
--------------------------------------------- ------

9. (N/SF) I then raised with Karzai his regular claim to
senior U.S. visitors that the U.S. has "failed in
Afghanistan."  I noted that such rhetoric could potentially
undermine continued bipartisan support for our current
strategy of expanding U.S. assistance to Afghanistan.  I said
some criticism was fair, but in these meetings with senior
U.S. officials, Karzai regularly failed to acknowledge any
meaningful progress resulting from U.S. contributions.  By
condemning U.S. efforts while failing to take any
responsibility for Afghanistan's problems, Karzai was not
presenting the Afghan government (or himself) as a
responsible partner in this relationship, a partner cognizant
of and sensitive to mutual obligations.  Leaving meetings
with Karzai, officials could easily conclude that the U.S.
has accomplished little or nothing here and question why we
continue to devote American lives and resources to the
effort.  Karzai indicated that he understood the need to
present a more balanced perspective.  (Note.  It remains to
be seen whether Karzai can or will refrain from this "blame
America" tactic he uses to deflect criticism of his
administration.  Indeed, his inability to grasp the most
rudimentary principles of state-building and his deep seated
insecurity as a leader combine to make any admission of fault
unlikely, in turn confounding our best efforts to find in
Karzai a responsible partner.)

ELECTIONS: KARZAI (STILL) SUSPICIOUS OF U.S. INTENTIONS
--------------------------------------------- ---------

10. (S/NF) Revisiting a favorite grievance, Karzai asserted
that early in the year some officials in the Obama
Administration had encouraged potential opposition candidates
to run.  Karzai indicated he felt Secretary Clinton had been
very supportive and noted relations with VP Biden were much
improved.  He still felt some senior officials were actively
working to undermine him.  Those officials, he said, were
openly discussing election runoff scenarios that would give
the opposition an opening to unite against him. Karzai
claimed that in a fair and free election he would win on the
first round.  If there were "irregularities" and the election
went to a second round, Karzai believed opposition candidates
would play the "ethnic card" to marshal support, undermining
national unity.

11. (S/NF) I challenged his assertion that Administration
officials had promoted opposition candidates.  I emphasized
that, in fact, our Mission has gone to great pains to remain
balanced in engagement with presidential candidates and to
promote a level-playing field, I reminded Karzai that I had
decided not to visit Mazar-e-Sharif because of Governor
Atta's overt campaigning for Abdullah and his reported
refusal to comply with MOI Atmar's dismissal of two policemen
in the province for corruption.  Karzai replied, with humor,

KABUL 00001892  003 OF 003

that he conceded in this instance that the U.S. had been
even-handed in demonstrating its commitment to fair
elections.

COMMENT
-------

12. (S/NF) Although more relaxed than in recent meetings,
Karzai remains deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions and
actions regarding key opposition candidates, frequently
citing U.S.-based support groups for Abdullah Abdullah and
Ashraf Ghani.  Karzai is currently most concerned about a
potential Abdullah coalition.  (He dismissed Ghani, saying
that he will know Ghani has admitted defeat when he asks for
a position in Karzai's new government.)  Karzai clearly
expected (or hoped) to receive the same U.S. support for his
candidacy that he received in the 2004 election, and
interprets our neutral stance in this election as evidence
that the U.S. is "against" him.  I will continue to use my
weekly dialogues with Karzai to clarify our position on this
and other issues, while focusing him on the way forward in
U.S.-Afghan relations with an emphasis on our shared desire
that progress needs to continue, regardless of who wins the
election.  In future discussions, I will continue to stress
the importance of Afghanistan assuming a more meaningful
partnership role, and focus on key issue areas such as ANSF
growth and assumption of lead responsibility for security,
reconciliation, government accountability, and sustainable
development.  Through this engagement, we will also seek to
avoid the gap between the U.S. and Karzai widening to the
point that we will lose precious time closing the distance
should he be re-elected.

EIKENBERRY