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07KABUL679 2007-03-01 15:06:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

TALIBAN AND AL QAEDA FOCUSING ON HELMAND

Tags:   PREL PGOV PTER ASEC MARR AF 
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1. Helmand Governor Wafa assesses that most districts in his
province are either under the control of the Taliban or
surrounded by Taliban, as Taliban and Al Qaeda are focusing
on Helmand and their numbers are on the rise. Wafa wants
military operations to commence in five districts in Helmand,
starting with Sangin where, he says, the majority are willing
to support the GOA and the Kajaki dam and infrastructure
project when the Taliban threat is removed. The Ambassador
asked Wafa to focus more on talking with the Kajaki and
Sangin shuras; negotiations and military operations need to
support each other. Wafa agreed to hold more talks. He also
made some ammunition requests that we have referred to
CSTC-A. END SUMMARY

Taliban and Al Qaeda Focusing On Helmand


--------------------------





2. (C) Helmand Governor Wafa told Ambassador February 26 that
most districts in Helmand were either under the control of
the Taliban or that Taliban were surrounding areas that the
GOA controlled. He believes Taliban and Al Qaeda are
focusing their attention on Helmand and that large numbers of
insurgents were entering the province. He called for
precision attacks against these groups in response. The good
news was that the three main Taliban groups (two representing
different Afghan tribal groups, the third from outside the
country) were all opposing each other. In addition, he
reported that through his outreach efforts, 350 mullahs
across the province were now supporting the GOA, although
they likely would not offer pro-GOA messages in the mosques
until the security environment improved.



3. (C) Wafa described Sangin District as being divided into
five parts, with different ethnic groups in control. Four
parts of the district were friendly to the GOA and were
predominantly controlled by the Barakzai, Noorzai, and
Alakozai tribes. One part, where the Isakzai tribe was
dominant, was not supporting the GOA. The supporters of the
GOA want the Kajaki dam and related road reconstruction
project to move forward but are surrounded by Taliban. They
will support fighting the Taliban and have even identified
their own fighters. The one anti-GOA group, the Isakzai, is
made up of smugglers and heavily supported by the Taliban.
Wafa said this latter group sees the Taliban getting stronger
and is hedging its bets. The Ambassador asked if it was
correct that the Isakzai are an historically marginalized
group wanting revenge and profiting from Taliban smugglers.
Wafa remarked this was 100 percent correct. Wafa agreed that
we had to both fight the Taliban and help broker peace among
the tribes to keep them away from the Taliban. Wafa saw the
second part as his job.

Need Military Operations in Five Districts


--------------------------





4. (C) Wafa called for military operations in five districts
-- Sangin, Musa Qala, Kajaki, Garmser, and Baram Chah. The
Ambassador cautioned that we could not do all at the same
time but needed to decide our priorities. Baram Chah, along
the Pakistan border, could not be first, but cannot be
ignored. General McNeill realizes this and will also not
ignore Musa Qala. He will be consulting closely with the
Governor and President Karzai on Musa Qala, the Ambassador
explained. Wafa did not think that a big military operation
was needed in Musa Qala. He said he would send his own
security forces into the district. Wafa asked for a return
of border police that were first assigned to Helmand and then
reassigned to Nimroz in previous years.


KABUL 00000679 002 OF 002




5. (C) The Ambassador said it was important to view the
situation as one war, not separate wars in each province. We
had to choose the right places to fight and win and then move
on to other places to do the same, rather than defending all
areas. Wafa agreed and suggested operations start in Sangin.
The Ambassador said he would convey to ISAF and the UK that
he had spoken to the Governor and that Wafa understands the
need to negotiate but he also needs to understand how
military planning is proceeding. Wafa agreed with this
approach but cautioned that the longer operations were
delayed the stronger the Taliban got. Wafa indicated he was
willing to share any information with ISAF. (NOTE: The UK
Task Force reports that its arrangement with Wafa is to brief
him about all operations, with the only exception being
instances where time did not permit it, e.g., recent
precision air strikes against Taliban commanders. END NOTE.)

NEUMANN