PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #0467/01 0611338
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021338Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7574
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 000467
EO 12958 DECL: 07/07/2018
TAGS PGOV, PREL, AF
SUBJECT: NEGATIVE INFLUENCE OF CERTAIN KARZAI ADVISORS
REF: KABUL 139
Classified By: CDA Christopher Dell for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C/NF) SUMMARY. Individuals formerly close to President Karzai attribute blame for Karzai’s recent unpredictable behavior to the influence of a trio of Palace advisors. Critics say Palace Chief of Staff Mohammad Daudzai, Education Minister Farooq Wardak, and Information and Culture Minister Abdul Karim Khoram provide misleading advice and conspire to isolate Karzai from more pragmatic (and pro-Western) advisors in a purposeful effort to antagonize Western countries, especially the United States. These three share a common link to the mujahideen-era Hezb-e-Islami organization, stoking suspicions, particularly among non-Pashtuns, that their efforts are part of a larger conspiracy. But in a rumor-driven country such as Afghanistan, assumptions can far outstrip reality. There is a wide consensus that these three currently have Karzai’s ear, but allowances have to be made for Afghan rumor mongering and Karzai’s own conspirational outlook.
Karzai’s Advisor Bubble
2. (C/NF) Many Karzai supporters, some who have been with the president since his transitional administration and 2004 presidential campaign, have expressed frustration over their lack of direct access to Karzai. They say Chief of Staff Daudzai has restricted access to the president and prevented other Palace staff from meeting alone with Karzai. When petitioners do receive meetings, Daudzai is always present. MPs also complain Karzai is less accessible than he was two years ago, and repeatedly ignores their meeting requests. Many former allies have either withdrawn their support for his re-election or have held off on publicly committing to his campaign (reftel).
3. (C/NF) Palace Chief of Policy Sebghatullah Sanjar said Daudzai feeds the president misinformation and highlights negative coverage of his government, turning Karzai against former allies and influencing his opinions of people he has not yet met. Sanjar said Daudzai began to cut off Karzai’s one-on-one meetings with other Palace staff in 2008, though Sanjar succeeded in seeing the president without Daudzai twice in the last two months. Sanjar and others say Daudzai is Karzai’s most influential advisor on Afghanistan’s foreign policy and reconciliation initiatives. Many believe Daudzai is steering the president into closer ties with Iran, Russia, and Taliban leaders.
4. (C/NF) Sanjar describes Karzai as a “lonely and alone man” who suspects his inner circle is leading him in the wrong direction, but does not know who else to trust. The president pays significant attention to the mostly negative media coverage of his government, perpetuating his suspicions that enemies are “out to get him.” Daudzai and Khoram have convinced Karzai to take a harder line against his critics, regardless of whether they are traditional rivals or allies providing constructive criticism. Sanjar suggests this advice is a factor in Karzai’s emotional reactions to civilian casualty incidents and his publicized dialogue with Russia. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah claimed Daudzai and Farooq Wardak know how to manipulate Karzai’s thought process and tendency to make emotional decisions based on unvetted information. Abdullah also asserts that Karzai is increasingly paranoid, and prone to a conspirational outlook on life, leading him to blame all problems on others and unable to see his own role in mistakes.
5. (C/NF) FM Spanta objects to Daudzai’s conduct on limiting access, including for Spanta, and to Daudzai’s policy influence. They have a cool relationship. Palace Deputy Chief of Staff Homayra Etemadi affirms the observations of others on Daudzai’s ill influence over Karzai. She distrusts her boss, and has recommended the Embassy consider carefully what kinds of information it shares with Daudzai. MFA Chief of Protocol Hamid Sidiq is convinced that Daudzai, who once served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tehran, is working to advance Tehran’s interests ahead of the United States’ vis-a-vis the Palace. Sidiq reported that Daudzai recently overruled an MFA decision to turn down a meeting request to Karzai by an 8-person delegation of Iranian television officials. Earlier that day the Palace had limited an official Canadian delegation to five members to see Karzai.
6. (C/NF) Information Minister Khoram and Education Minister Wardak get their fair share of criticism as well. Social moderates like Lower House MP Shukria Barakzai (Kabul, Pashtun), Upper House MP Rida Azimi (Parwan, Tajik), and former Wardak Governor Abdul Jabbar Naeemi blame Khoram for Karzai’s increasingly conservative stands on social issues
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and Wardak for the president’s hesitance to publicly criticize the Taliban and other insurgent groups. United Front members and other contacts are incensed that Karzai criticizes the United States and other Coalition partners after civilian casualty incidents, but only issues muted statements through his press office or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after deadly insurgent attacks, such as the Feb. 11 attacks on government ministries in Kabul.
The Hezb-e-Islami Connection
7. (C/NF) Daudzai, Khoram, and Wardak were members of Hezb-e-Islami (HI) in the 1980s, during the mujahideen campaign against Soviet forces. The majority-Pashtun HI’s later rivalry with the Tajik-centric Jamiat-e-Milli and other resistance groups has left a legacy of ethnic-based tension among mujahideen today. None of the three advisors is a member of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan, the political party that broke with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in order to re-join Afghan politics. However, many Tajiks and other non-Pashtuns maintain their suspicions that every promotion or appointment of a former HI member or current HIA member is part of a conspiracy of “Pashtunization” of the government driven by Daudzai, Wardak, and Khoram.
8. (C/NF) HIA Chairman Arghandewal suspects Daudzai manipulates Karzai’s political views, but denies any connection between his party and the three advisors. Arghandewal, who serves as a tribal advisor to the Karzai, has not had a one-on-one conversation with the president in more than nine months, rendering him an “advisor who does not give advice.” He said HIA members are frustrated by the public’s association of them with the Daudzai-Wardak-Khoram bloc, since the three have no current ties to the party and were only minor figures in the mujahideen years. Arghandewal, Hekmatyar’s chief financial officer for several years, said he may have met Daudzai or Khoram in passing during the 1980s, but only became aware of their HI connections after their current rise to prominence.
Conspiracy or Projection?
9. (C/NF) In Afghanistan, all criticism and personal attacks should be taken with a grain of salt and examined carefully for underlying and ulterior motives. That said, the criticism of Karzai’s inner circle spans the ideological spectrum and includes detractors from all major ethnic groups. By all accounts, Karzai’s access to one-time loyalists has been more limited over the past year. But those who feel loyalty to or pity for the embattled president may be projecting their frustrations away from Karzai and on to the nearest target, his advisors. Others, mostly ethnic northerners inclined to distrust any Pashtun leader’s motives, see the Hezb-e-Islami connections of Daudzai, Wardak, and Khoram as all the proof they need to substantiate their conspiracy theories. But Hezb-e-Islami members tend to be among the most educated Afghan mujahideen, and thus the fact that they may be in positions of technocratic power today - close to Karzai or not - is understandable in a government with a thin pool of competency to draw from.
10. (C/NF) For the impartial observer, it is difficult to determine whether these three advisors do indeed have their own agenda or whether Karzai’s reliance on their counsel is a reflection of his own political leanings. What is clear, however, is that the characterizations of Karzai’s emotional and psychological state by his Afghan critics reported here are by and large consistent with our own observations and dealings with him. DELL
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