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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07KABUL368
2007-02-05 13:35:00
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

PRT LASHKAR GAH: MUSA QALA ELDERS DEFY THE TALIBAN

Tags:   PGOV  MOPS  MCAPARR  MARR  PHUM  AF 
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VZCZCXRO8167
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHBUL #0368/01 0361335
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 051335Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5924
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 3610
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 000368 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
NOFORN

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR HARRIMAN
OSD FOR KIMMITT
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76 POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2016
TAGS: PGOV MOPS MCAPARR MARR PHUM AF
SUBJECT: PRT LASHKAR GAH: MUSA QALA ELDERS DEFY THE TALIBAN
AND ARE NOW AT A CROSSROAD

REF: REF: KABUL 236

Classified By: DCM RNORLAND FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 000368

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
NOFORN

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR HARRIMAN
OSD FOR KIMMITT
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76 POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2016
TAGS: PGOV MOPS MCAPARR MARR PHUM AF
SUBJECT: PRT LASHKAR GAH: MUSA QALA ELDERS DEFY THE TALIBAN
AND ARE NOW AT A CROSSROAD

REF: REF: KABUL 236

Classified By: DCM RNORLAND FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)


1. (SBU/NF) SUMMARY: The death of a local Taliban
commander,s brother in an air strike in Helmand province was
the catalyst for a series of events that shattered the
relative quiet of Musa Qala district, culminating in the
Taliban,s seizure of the district center on February 1. In
retaliation for the air strike, Mullah Abdul Ghafar, whose
brother had been killed, and Taliban forces occupied the
district center and detained three Afghan National Auxiliary
Police (ANAP). District elders and shura members opposed
this action en masse, forcing the Taliban to release the ANAP
and withdraw. In the ensuing negotiations, the Taliban
demanded that the elders remove the Afghan national flag,
then flying over the administration building. The elders
again refused, with local mullahs giving the refusal the
force of a fatwah, or &Islamic obligation.8 The two sides
agreed to meet on February 5 to negotiate further, but on
February 1 the Taliban attacked the district center, beat and
disarmed ANAP, damaged or destroyed the administration
building, finally succeeded in removing the Afghan flag and
confined shura members to their homes. Afghan officials
publicly threatened action, with the support of ISAF, to
retake the town. Governor Wafa has strongly advocated a
robust response to the Taliban's actions. He released a
statement denouncing the Taliban and urging support for the
elders (as did ISAF). On the afternoon of February 4 word
spread that an ISAF air strike in Musa Qala had killed Ghafar
and unknown others.


2. (SBU/NF) Summary Continued: The controversial agreement

reached last fall with Musa Qala district elders was in
tatters before the February 1 attack; it is now inoperative.
What will emerge from the wreckage of the agreement, and of
the district center, will have impact across Helmand. Musa
Qala residents had been willing to live with hovering Taliban
presence as the price of six months of relative calm. With
that peace shattered by the violence brought on the town by
the Taliban, attitudes and loyalties appear up for grabs,
though reporting indicates locals are unhappy with the
insurgents' actions. Swift reinstatement of the ousted
elders and offers of assistance could draw what was an
anti-government enclave towards the GOA,s sphere. An
important step would be acceptance of Wafa,s &protocols.8
Musa Qala remaining under Taliban control would undermine the
centerpiece of Wafa,s tribal outreach in Helmand. END
SUMMARY.

Taliban Retaliates for Deadly Air Strike
--------------


3. (SBU/NF) According to Afghan sources, an ISAF air strike
last week in Helmand province,s Musa Qala district (outside
the 5 km zone around the district center) killed the brother
of a local Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Ghafar (or
Ghafoor). In retaliation, Ghafar and Taliban supporters
attacked the Musa Qala district center, disarming the guards
(possibly members of the Afghan National Auxiliary Police
(ANAP)) and forcing the shura to leave the district compound.
After Ghafar displaced the elders, a separate group of
Taliban (the "local" or "moderate" Taliban who apparently
supported the shura) interceded. Lengthy negotiations
between the two Taliban groups followed. There were also
reports of a large group of elders confronting Ghafar and
demanding the release of the three men and the withdrawal of
Ghafar and his men from the district center. Ghafar and his
men complied, withdrawing, releasing the three, and returning
their uniforms and weapons. (Note: The two versions of the
confrontation with Ghafar may be one and the same. Given the
looseness of the term &Taliban8 among Afghans, and the fact
that locals have acknowledged that &local Taliban8 are
members of the shura, the accounts are substantially similar.
End Note)


KABUL 00000368 002 OF 003


Taliban Commander Demands Removal of Afghan Flag
-------------- ---


4. (SBU/NF) On January 31, a member of the Musa Qala shura
told PRTOff that, while Ghafar had left the district center,
the situation had not returned to normal. Negotiations
continued with Ghafar demanding that the shura remove the
flag of Afghanistan from the atop the district center. He
insisted it was not the flag of an Islamic state. This
angered shura members, who told Ghafar that it had been the
country,s flag before Ghafar was born and refused his
demand. The shura member told PRTOff at that point that the
shura expected to prevail as "all the people" in the center
supported the shura,s existing agreement with the Government
of Afghanistan (GOA), and that Ghafar had no support.

Shura Rejects Taliban Demands, Again
--------------


5. (SBU/NF) The same shura member reported to PRTOff that on
February 1 a large group of elders, mullahs and shura members
(estimated as 2000) gathered in the district center. They met
to address a demand to remove the Afghan flag, this time by
Mullah Manan (Taliban district chief of Sangin). (Note: It
is not clear but appears likely that Mullah Manan was simply
echoing Ghafar's demand. End Note) The assembled group
agreed to reject the demand, concluding that words of the
mullahs, shura and elders had the force of an "Islamic
obligation" (fatwa) that must be obeyed. The shura member
stressed the importance of such an obligation, especially
undertaken by so many. He described the group as being
angry, having concluded that the Taliban are the "slaves of
Pakistan." (Note: A separate source provided an additional
motivation for the shura members insisting that the flag
remain flying. He said the villagers believed it was a
symbol that would protect the district center from bombings
and raids by NATO. End Note) The group,s decision was
conveyed to unspecified Taliban members, who responded that
they would depart to discuss the matter with their "top
commanders in Pakistan," and they would a meeting with the
elders on February 5.

Taliban Takes over District Center
--------------


6. (SBU/NF) On February 1 the Taliban attacked the DC, beat
and disarmed ANAP, damaged or destroyed the DC administration
building and surrounding wall, removed the Afghan flag and
confined shura members to their homes. A shura member
claimed that locals were refusing to cooperate with the
Taliban, e.g., refusing to provide food and shelter. He
added that fear of NATO air strikes fed the ill-will towards
the Taliban, whose recent actions have put an end to six
months of relative quiet. There have been reports of locals
fleeing the district center.


7. (SBU/NF) Afghan government officials publicly threatened
action, in concert with ISAF, to retake the town. Governor
Wafa has strongly advocated a robust response to the
Taliban's actions. He released a statement denouncing the
Taliban and urging support for the elders (as did ISAF). On
the afternoon of February 4 reports indicated that an ISAF
air strike in Musa Qala killed Ghafar and unknown others.

Frayed Relations with Taliban are Broken
--------------


8. (SBU/NF) According to various sources, relations between
the shura and &active Taliban8 in the area had been
deteriorating even before the air strike. Before the
occupation of the district center, and probably before the
air strike, members of the shura approached Ghafar in order
to convince him leave the insurgency and abandon a checkpoint
that he and his militias used to search people and extract
money from them. Governor Wafa had made it clear that,
pursuant to the existing agreement with the GOA, hr expected

KABUL 00000368 003 OF 003


the shura to turn over tax revenues. This apparently led to
the shura deciding that closing the Taliban checkpoint would
leave more money in the pockets of locals for the shura to
tax. Ghafar reportedly apparently scoffed at the shura's
request and insulted the elders, calling them useless.

COMMENT
--------------


9. (SBU/NF) COMMENT: The controversial agreement with Musa
Qala district elders, reached last fall, was, at best, in
suspension while the elders negotiated with the Taliban. The
seizure of the district center by the Taliban destroyed the
agreement and upset the existing fragile balance between the
local shura and the Taliban. The shura is at a crossroad,
and what happens next will have an impact far beyond the
small district. Governor Wafa,s call for a robust response
on the part of the GOA and the international community,
including public expressions of support and material
assistance, does not mean he expects the elders to embrace
the GOA. He understands the elders are constantly weighing
their options, comparing the costs and benefits of different
alliances. The Taliban has been damaged physically by recent
ISAF and GOA operations in Helmand and politically by its own
operations against Musa Qala. Wafa understands an opening
exists for convincing the shura that the GOA ) with ISAF
standing behind it ) is both a credible threat and a
potential partner. Relatively swift reinstatement of the
ousted elders, coupled with assurances of assistance, could
draw a heretofore largely anti-government enclave towards the
GOA,s sphere. A critical first step on the part of the
shura would be acceptance of Wafa,s pro-GOA conditions
("protocols8) which he says have received a positive
response from other districts, elders (REFTEL). END COMMENT.
NEUMANN