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06KABUL1544 2006-04-06 12:25:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kabul
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1. (C) In the past week Amb has raised the Abdul Rahman
case on a one-on-one basis in private meetings with several
of Afghanistan's top political leaders, including
Vice-President Ziya Massoud, ex-President (and now MP)
Burhanuddin Rabbani, MP Abdulrab Rasoul Sayyaf, Wolesi Jirga
Speaker Yunus Qanooni and top Shi'ite religious leader
Ayatollah Seyed Asif Muhsini. Each discussion involved a
thorough explanation of the great value America places on
freedom of conscience and the intense interest so many
Americans have shown towards Abdul Rahman. Emboffs will
continue to repeat this message with their political

2. (C) The Afghan leadership is well aware of how sensitive
this case is to the Afghan-American relationship, and seems
very willing to try to prevent fanatics going after
Christians or inflaming the issues. These leaders are very
sophisticated in their understanding of the consequences that
would have resulted from Abdul Rahman's being incarcerated
for a longer time (none believe he was ever in real danger of
death), and each claimed that he had done everything possible
to calm the situation in Afghanistan. They are also, of
course, subject to great domestic pressure from their
conservative and extremist followers who saw western interest
in Abdul Rahman's conversion as interference in Afghan

3. (C) For the time being, the Afghan leadership hopes that
the emotions over this issue have died down. These leaders
agree wholeheartedly in private that it is not in either
country's interest to allow emotions in Afghanistan to run
wild over incidents that touch on Islam, and they fully
understand the importance of working to ensure it does not
happen. All of them say we must calm the situation to allow
space for rational discussion. Each knows we intend to
continue to engage on the broader issue of principle. That
having been said, however, another such case may slip beyond
their ability to control, and even the leadership may find
its political capital severely taxed if the populace
perceives that Islam is in some way being threatened or