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08KABUL576 2008-03-06 06:07:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

Baghlan, Afghanistan: New Leadership to Address Provincial

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1. (SBU) Summary: Since the tragic suicide attack on the Baghlan
Sugar Factory on November 6, 2007, the central government has
replaced two leading provincial officials and has increased pressure
on Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to combat organized crime
and insurgent activity. Baghlan is stable and relatively secure,
and traffic continues to flow along the Ring Road and to reach the
northern and western provinces. Industry is the basis for economic
development in the province. It remains to be seen whether the
young, newly-appointed and politically-inexperienced governor is
able to assert his office's authority.

Security - Fall Out from the Baghlan Sugar Factory Bombing



2. (SBU) The attack on the Baghlan Sugar Factory, in which
approximately 75 individuals died, shook the provincial government.
President Karzai eventually succumbed to pressure from Parliament
and replaced the provincial governor and National Directorate of
Security (NDS) provincial chief. Both the provincial police chief,
who was in Kabul at a police conference at the time of the bombing,
and his deputy have retained their positions.

3. (SBU) Police and NDS recently conducted an operation targeting
organized criminals and insurgents in the province. More than 120
individuals surrendered, likely motivated by previous overnment
operations that caused casualties. Among the detained individuals
were seven criinals accused of providing material support for he
attack on the sugar factory.

4. (SBU) Given the geographic distances between the provincial
capital and outlying district centers and its limited number of
personnel, the ANSF is reliant upon local elders and communities to
maintain stability. The Andarab belt in southeastern Baghlan, the
Qandahari belt west of the river, and the border region between
Kunduz and Baghlan remain areas of concern due to insurgents,
organized crime, and ethnic tension. The ANSF permanent presence
has decreased since the abolishment of the highway police and the
consolidation of the auxiliary police in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh
province. (Neither Baghlan nor Balkh was ever authorized auxiliary
police). The Afghan army does not currently have a permanent
presence in the province, although one battalion from the 209 Corps,
2nd Brigade, which will soon be established in Kunduz, is expected
to deploy to Pol-e Khomri, the capital of Baghlan.

5. (SBU) The provincial police chief, Maulana Syed Khili, is a Tajik
who is a former jihadi and Afghan National Army commander from
Parwan province. He served as Parwan's provincial police chief for
two years before arriving in Baghlan in 2007. Khili is a fighter
with a flair for self-promotion and understands the need to
demonstrate results, especially to foreign audiences. The
recently-arrived provincial NDS chief Mohammed Daoud is a Tajik
originally from Kunduz province. His brother-in-law, Mir Alam, is a
former mujahideen commander, a local power broker, and most
recently, Baghlan's provincial police chief, who was removed through
the rank reform process.

Development - Industrial Towns, Hydro-electric Power and Jitters
about Privatization



6. (SBU) A drive from Kunduz o Pol-e Khomri highlights Baghlan's
industrial focus. Along the route are sugar and cheese factories in
Fabrica, a cement plant and coal mine in Pol-e Khomri,
hydro-electric plants along the river, and trucks exiting the Salang
Pass enroute to Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz and to Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. While there have been initiatives to
strengthen or rehabilitate the industrial concerns, current
development efforts are focused on priority sectors such as
education and health and reaching some of the more remote or
potentially volatile districts such as Tala Wa Barfek, Deh-e Salah,
Pal-e Hazar and Baghlan-e Jedid.

7. (SBU) A Soviet-style command economy (state-driven investment,
government factories) remains the textbook approach to economic
development in the minds of some provincial officials. The
Provincial Council is very skeptical of privatization, influenced by
their experiences with the Baghlan cement plant. (The privatization
process was poorly handled and is widely viewed has having been
corrupt). They expressed concern about the loss of jobs, as well as
the political and economic influences of the Karzai family

(President Karzais brother is CEO of the plant). The PC's
exprience with the cement plant has tainted their view as to the
importance of private sector development to economic growth.

Governance - A Financially Savvy, but Politically Inexperienced,



8. (SBU) Governance in the province has suffered with the frequent
rotation of governors (there have been four since 2005). The new
Baghlan governor, Abdul Jabar Haqbeen, assumed office at the
beginning of January 2008. He is from Baghlan's Nahreen district
and graduated from Kabul University's Economics Faculty. He began
his career in the banking sector in Kabul, before serving most
recently as a finance officer in Baghlan and Kunduz. He is allied
with the Melat party, and his patron in Kabul is Finance Minister
Ahadi. Haqbeen's youth (he is 30) and his lack of political
experience may challenge his stated goals o bringing ethnic
harmony, security and projects to the province. Haqbeen's mixed
Tajik/Pashtun parentage, however, may assist him in representing the
various ethnicities and regional geographic interests.

9. (SBU) Tajiks, Pashtuns, Uzbeks, and Hazara are represented in
Baghlan's PC, although there is a slight Tajik overrepresentation
compared to the population. Three PC members are mullahs. The PC
chairman is the charming and well-spoken Mawlawi Sirajudin Seerat,
who tends to be critical of the Karzai government. The PC is
concerned with maximizing donor assistance and articulating the
population's concerns about job opportunities and security.

10. (SBU) The mayor of Pol-e Khomri, Mohammad Safar, is originally
from Baghlan's Farang district. He graduated from Kabul
University's engineering faculty and worked in a variety of
government offices and state-owned enterprises before becoming mayor
in July 2007. Safar has focused on municipal service delivery and
has a budget of approximately USD 1 million. He is particularly
focused on paving the city's streets. Following a recent fire in
the city, he requested international assistance with the procurement
of fire fighting equipment. (Several municipalities in northeast
Afghanistan have requested assistance in this regard.)