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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09KABUL1195 2009-05-10 13:09:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

INSIDE KARZAI CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS

Tags:   PGOV PREL AF 
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VZCZCXRO0578
PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #1195/01 1301309
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101309Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8813
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 0043
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001195 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AF
SUBJECT: INSIDE KARZAI CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. President Karzai officially launched his
re-election campaign last week, relying on an unusual mix of
powerful commanders from Afghanistan's 30 years of conflict
and a small group of younger volunteers from newer
pro-democracy organizations. To date, former mujahideen
commanders like First Vice President nominee Marshall Fahim
and Lower House MP Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf have focused mainly
on raising money and engaging other high-profile Afghan
leaders for support, leaving the logistical operations of
campaign work to the younger crowd. Karzai himself has
concentrated on locking up support from old-guard leaders,
causing some reformist supporters to question their
commitments to a campaign that rewards the leaders of the
past and ignores the support of democratic groups. End
Summary.

A Glimpse At Karzai Campaign HQ


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





2. (SBU) Karzai opened his campaign headquarters last month
in a busy neighborhood near the Palace and the U.S. Embassy.
PolOff dropped by the office recently and spoke with the
three campaign staffers who were present. The staffers were
young, energetic, and computer literate, though insistent
that any conversations be "off the record" in case their
bosses heard they had spoken to a Westerner. The rented
three-story home has separate offices reserved for the
campaign's top lieutenants: VP nominees Fahim and Karim
Khalili, Lower House MP Sayyaf, Palace policy chief
Sebghatullah Sanjar, and Kabul Governor Haji Din Mohammad.
Campaign staff said Mohammad will play the lead coordinating
role for the campaign once he resigns his governor post.
Much like a U.S.-style campaign office, phone banks, office
equipment, and conference rooms occupy the remaining space.



3. (SBU) Most of the top lieutenants' offices looked empty
and unused. Campaign staff explained that Fahim and Sayyaf
preferred to work out of their homes, while Khalili, Sanjar,
and Mohammad were still weighing how to balance their
government positions with their campaign duties. Campaign
aides said they were completely focused on Karzai's campaign
and were not working for pro-Karzai provincial council
candidates. As PolOff arrived for his visit, one staffer was
posting a BBC Persian article on Nangarhar Gov. Gul Aga
Sherzai's withdrawal from the presidential race and
subsequent endorsement of Karzai on a bulletin board. The
other two aides were reviewing media reports on Karzai's trip
to Washington.



4. (U) Campaign staff said they expected activity at the
office to increase after the June 12 publication of the final
candidate list. Until then, they will be busy with
renovations and early-stage campaign preparations. Inside
the "media room," staff had hung dozens of posters and
T-shirt samples with pictures of Karzai. Staff had digitally
altered Karzai's clothes, headwear, and an adjoining campaign
slogan in each image to appeal to various ethnic and
linguistic constituencies. Following the start of the
official campaign period, aides will distribute the specially
designed campaign materials to Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras,
Uzbeks, Baluchs, and Nuristanis.

Old-Style Afghan Politics And Modern Election Regulations


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





5. (SBU) Campaign lieutenant Sanjar, one of the only members
of the campaign's leadership with experience in democratic
politics, told PolOff he and other reformers in the Karzai
campaign occasionally feel Karzai and other top aides do not
appreciate the contributions democratic groups have made to
the campaign, especially in light of the low workloads taken
on by supposedly influential lieutenants. Sanjar expects
volunteers from democratic parties, and not Sayyaf and Fahim
loyalists, will staff satellite campaign offices in the
provinces when they open later this month.



6. (SBU) In late April, Karzai tasked Fahim, Sayyaf,
Mohammed, Khalili, and Sanjar to collect the 10,000
signatures and copies of voter registration cards needed to
qualify for the ballot. Sanjar utilized his party network to
collect 2,000 signatures. However, Sanjar said Sayyaf, who
leads his own political party, brought in just 100 voter
registration cards. Fahim, nominated for the vice presidency
in part because of a supposed influence in Tajik communities,
brought in just 15. Khalili, who heads a faction of the
majority-Hazara Hezb-e-Wahdat party, asked 100 people to show
up at the campaign office, but only 15 of those were
registered voters. Frustrated, Palace officials asked Sanjar
to extend his efforts to the provinces and work with local
officials to collect the necessary signatures. In the end,
the campaign collected 15,000 signatures and qualified for

KABUL 00001195 002 OF 002


the ballot on time ) though Sanjar wished Karzai would have
acknowledged the role of democratic groups in his
registration.

A Modest, Though Probably Sufficient Effort


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





7. (SBU) Just three months before the election, Karzai's
campaign headquarters still has the feel and resources of a
sleepy mayoral election-level campaign office in the US.
Still, its scope and budget far exceed the efforts of the
other campaigns we have seen ) we believe fewer than 10 of
the more than 40 presidential candidates even have campaign
offices outside of their private residences. The lack of a
truly strong challenger in this year's election and Karzai's
apparent preference for negotiations with mujahideen leaders
over grassroots political campaigning will probably mean a
continued lack of attention for his young, democratic
supporters. For the long-term though, we hope these young
activists gain valuable experience in political campaigning
that they will be able to put to good use in next year's
parliamentary elections and future presidential elections.
This experience should benefit reformist, democratic
candidates who run campaigns based around ideas and political
parties, rather than personalities from the mujahideen era.
RICCIARDONE