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Viewing cable 09KABUL2768, ABDULLAH THOUGHTFUL ABOUT HIS NEXT MOVE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KABUL2768 2009-09-10 15:03 2010-12-02 21:09 SECRET Embassy Kabul
VZCZCXRO2608
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #2768/01 2531534
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 101534Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1413
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002768 

SIPDIS 

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.”
KABUL 00002768 002 OF 002

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. EIKENBERRY