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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09KABUL1489 2009-06-10 14:45:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

TEPID PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HEDAYAT ARSALA

Tags:   PGOV AF 
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VZCZCXRO5457
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #1489 1611445
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101445Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9345
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS KABUL 001489 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV AF
SUBJECT: TEPID PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HEDAYAT ARSALA

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Summary
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1. (SBU) Former Senior Minister Hedayat Arsala laid out to
the Ambassador on June 8 a substantive agenda that would
focus on strengthening governance by fighting government
corruption and interdicting the narcotics trade. He asserted
that Karzai held such strong advantages of incumbency that
the United States had to help opposition candidates. The
Ambassador reiterated our position on favoring no candidate,
and challenged the opposition to take responsibility to use
Afghan institutions to draw attention to any electoral
irregularities. Arsala had equally little detail on his
campaign strategy. He grouped himself with Abdullah and
Ghani as the three strongest candidates, and hoped he would
edge them out and make it to a second round to challenge
Karzai.



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Few details on policy or campaign strategy


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





2. (U) Arsala focused his policy agenda on strengthening
governance, speaking about the mistakes made early in the
transition by allowing too much authority to go to former
warlords. Without citing a specific plan, he spoke about
fighting government corruption and interdicting the narcotics
trade. He asserted that our combined focus should be on
improving the lives of farmers, so they would choose licit
crops over poppy, and on creating jobs in urban areas to
alleviate poverty. Arsala had few specifics beyond that.



3. (SBU) Arsala acknowledged that Karzai appeared to hold the
upper hand in the contest now. Arsala recognized that the
United States was backing no candidate, but he contended that
the field was not level. He recited similar complaints that
we have heard from other opposition candidates about
officials using government resources to favor Karzai. He
asserted that Karzai held such strong advantages of
incumbency that the United States had to help opposition
candidates. He did not specify what form of help he had in
mind.



4. (SBU) The Ambassador made clear our policy of favoring no
candidate ) either the incumbent or the opposition, and put
the responsibility back on Arsala and others to use electoral
institutions, the media and public opinion to draw attention
to electoral irregularities. He added that the United States
was working to support a fair and transparent process, and we
would encourage all candidates to make this a campaign
involving a competition of ideas.



5. (U) On his campaign, Arsala was working quietly both in
Kabul and in the regions. He was not appearing in the media
yet, but planned to do so as soon as the official campaign
season begins. As for resources, he would use his own,
though he is seeking support from certain businesspeople and
traders. When pressed, he had little more specific to say on
his campaign strategy.



6. (SBU) Arsala contended that he, Abdullah Abdullah and
Ashraf Ghani constituted the strongest candidates. He had
hoped the three would align together, and thought he would be
the right person to head the ticket. He argued that many
people knew Ghani had a hot temper, a quality that people
would not want in a president. Arsala declared that both
Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns distrusted Abdullah, in part
because of his Panjshiri Tajik background. Arsala insisted
that no one opposed him. The key would be for him to rise
above the other candidates to run against Karzai in a second
round.



7. (U) Notwithstanding press reports to the contrary, Arsala
confirmed that he had resigned his position as senior
minister in order to contest the election.
EIKENBERRY