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09KABUL2405 2009-08-17 17:10:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

AFGHAN ELECTIONS: POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF

Tags:   PGOV PREL AF 
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1. (C) SUMMARY: General Abdul Rashid Dostum's return to
Afghanistan opens up old political wounds, but in the short
term is a net vote winner for Karzai -- possibly even enough
to gain him a first round victory. Karzai justified his
decision "in light of recent protests in Northern
Afghanistan, and the threats to boycott the elections if
Dostum did not return home." In the long term, Dostum's
influence will limit his Junbesh party's democratization,
shift future ministerial positions to cronies, and further
entrench ethnic voting blocks. Karzai will also have to deal
with the Dostum liability as a human rights violator, and his
infamous unpredictability (reftels). End Summary.



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Dostum Returns


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2. (C) General Dostum returned to Afghanistan from Turkey
early on August 17 on a Kam Air charter flight organized by
President Karzai, after some technical delays in Ankara.
Dostum was greeted by 5-7,000 supporters at a pro-Karzai
campaign rally when he arrived in his home province, Jowzjan.
Dostum, who was nearly crushed by the mob as he exited his
vehicle and fought his way to the stage, needed to catch his
breath for several minutes before he was able to speak--and
then for 30 minutes - in Dari, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Pashto -
he thanked his supporters.



3. (C) At one point Dostum made an indirect jab at Junbesh
Chairman Sayed Noorullah, along with many other Junbesh
officials, who boycotted the event. Dostum accused "some
people" of warning those Dostum faithful who demonstrated in
favor of Dostum's return that they would be arrested by
"Americans and other international forces." Noorullah told
Mazar PRT officer that Junbesh might split in two, and that
if the election goes to a second round and Dostum is still in
Afghanistan, the Junbesh leaders would withdraw their backing
of Karzai and endorse another candidate.



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Mixed Feelings Among Uzbeks


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4. (C) Members of the Junbesh Party leadership in Kabul
contacted us, the Turkish Ambassador and the presidential
palace as soon as they heard of Dostum's imminent return on
August 16, to lobby us to keep him in Turkey. The Junbesh
leadership council, who had negotiated an alliance with
Karzai separately, claimed they have nothing to gain, and
much to lose, with Dostum's return. Karzai had promised them
ministry positions (to include the cash cow Water and Energy)
in exchange for support. However, with Dostum back, the
Uzbek-promised positions will likely fall back into Dostum's
"dictatorial control," said MP Shakar Kargar. Junbesh
International Affairs representative and MP Mohammad Alem
Saee told us separately that the Junbesh party had undergone
much reform since Dostum left, and that party decisions were
now made by consensus of the party council. He said if
Dostum returns, only "his son and his cronies" will make
decisions on behalf of Junbesh and their moves towards
internal democracy would end.



5. (C) A close Karzai advisor told us the Junbesh party had
indeed distanced itself from Dostum, and made progress as a
democratic party. However, he said some Junbesh leaders are
likely "working both sides." Hezb-e-Islami party leader
Abdul Hadi Arghandewal (Pashtun) told us that as long as the
Uzbeks fear Dostum, he will continue to be the major Junbesh
power broker. He said the constant back-and-forth about
whether or not he would return had re-ignited the people's
fear of Dostum, and had "further entrenched Uzbek ethnic
voting blocks."



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


The Palace Campaign Maneuver


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





6. (C) The Presidential Palace issued a statement August 17
blaming the recent pro-Dostum rallies in Northern cities, and
the threats to boycott the elections, as the reason why the
palace did not interfere with Dostum's return. Junbesh
leadership alleged to us that Dostum paid for the protesters
by sending 25,000-50,000 USD per televised protest, to the

organizer via Kabul Bank. They claimed Karzai hosted Dostum
for breakfast when he arrived. Karzai almost joined Dostum
on the campaign trail in Sheberghan, Jowzjan, but in the end
changed his mind.



7. (C) A palace advisor told us Dostum was a campaign math
issue for Karzai, and that Karzai would obtain more votes
than the amount he would lose, in the final analysis. A
senior advisor to the Ministry of Haji and Islamic Affairs
also said to us that Karzai would gain votes overall, but
would lose votes from technocrats and former Taliban who
remembered the "5,000 Taliban killed brutally by Dostum" in
shipping containers. Arghandewal told us that Dostum was a
"liability," since his unpredictability would hurt Karzai in
the long-term, but agreed his return was a smart campaign
move in the short-term.



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


Dostum's Future


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





8. (C) Arghandewal said Dostum would never receive a
ministry, noting his lack of any formal education. He said
Dostum, at best, would be again named the chief of staff of
the Afghan National Army, a largely ceremonial post. An
assistant to the National Security Advisor told us that
Karzai did not want Dostum to stay in Afghanistan. She
predicted a deal that would allow Dostum's men to stay, but
that Dostum himself would be asked to leave. However, a
senior Junbesh leader told us that because Dostum waited so
long to return to Afghanistan, and "was enamored with power,"
it would be difficult to get him back on a plane to Turkey.



9. (C) Comment: Bringing Dostum back to energize one of
Afghanistan's most united ethnic groups could possibly help
Karzai -- now estimated to be polling at around 45% -- to
surpass the 50% vote needed to win in the first round. The
after-shocks of the return will be felt for some time, as the
Uzbek-promised ministry positions shift towards
Dostum-supporters, and Uzbek voters and the Junbesh party
return to a one-man focus on their ruthless former protector.
End Comment.
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