Sunday, February 10, 2008

Genesis, Part 12

We continue reviewing declassified State Department cables addressing the rise of the Taliban. This is a February 21, 1995, cable from the US Embassy in Dushanbe to the US Secretary of State's office in Washington, DC.










Its subject is: "RABBANI EMISSARY STATES RABBANI WILL NOT SURRENDER POWER TO INTERIM COUNCIL UNTIL TALIBAN JOIN".

1. CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT.

2. ACTION REQUEST - PARA 18.

SUMMARY
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3. DURING AN ALMOST TWO HOUR MEETING WITH AMB AND POL/ECON CHIEF, RABBANI'S ECONOMIC ADVISOR AND SPECIAL EMISSARY (AND ACTING HEAD OF THE AFGHAN NATIONAL BANK), ASHRAF SHAH, SOUGHT U.S. ADVICE FOR RABBANI IN LIGHT OF THE RISE IN POWER OF THE TALIBAN AND THE ECLIPSE OF HEKMATYAR'S POWER. SHAH DEPICTED THE TALIBAN AS A LARGELY DURRANI PASHTUN, RURAL, UNSOPHISTICATED, DEEPLY SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE FORCE UNLIKELY TO WIN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF KABULIS BUT IN CONTROL OF SIX PROVINCES AND ENJOYING A DEGREE OF POPULAR SUPPORT. THUS, HE ARGUED, IT WAS IMPORTANT THEY JOIN THE INTERIM COUNCIL -- BEFORE RABBANI TRANSFERS POWER TO THE COUNCIL, LEST IT BE DEAD UPON ARRIVAL. WE ADVISED SHAH THAT IT WAS STILL BETTER THAT RABBANI SURRENDER POWER TO MESTIRI'S PLANNED INTERIM COUNCIL NOW. WE SEEK DEPT'S LATEST GUIDANCE ON MESTIRIS PLAN AND THE TRANSFER OF POWER QUESTION TO SHARE WITH SHAH. END SUMMARY.

INTRODUCTION
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4. ASHRAF SHAH, ECONOMIC ADVISOR AND SPECIAL EMISSARY OF RABBANI, SOUGHT AN URGENT MEETING WITH AMB AND POL/ECON CHIEF FEB 20. PREVIOUS EVENING HE ARRIVED IN DUSHANBE FROM MOSCOW. SHAH TOLD US HE CAME TO DUSHANBE SPECIFICALLY TO MEET WITH EMBASSY OFFICERS BEFORE RETURNING TO KABUL VIA TASHKENT AND NEW DELHI. SHAH STATED HIS TRIP TO MOSCOW WAS SHORT, THREE DAYS, TO TEND TO BUSINESS OF THE AFGHAN NATIONAL BANK ("AFGHANISTAN'S FEDERAL RESERVE BANK," AS HE DESCRIBED IT), OF WHICH HE IS ACTING CHAIRMAN BECAUSE THE CHAIRMAN IS SICK. SHAH DID NOT APPARENTLY COLLECT ANY MORE AFGHANIS, PRINTED IN RUSSIA, AS HE STATED THE RUSSIAN CONTRACT HAD BEEN COMPLETED. A GERMAN COMPANY NOW HAS THE CONTRACT TO PRINT AFGHAN CURRENCY.


I have been using the term "Afghani" to refer to the people from Afghanistan.

I saw somewhere recently that the correct term is "Afghan"; apparently, "Afghani" is the monetary unit.

Please accept my apologies; no disrespect is intended.

TALIBAN - A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH BUT UNLIKELY TO FIND GREAT POPULAR SUPPORT AMONG KABULIS.
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5. SHAH SUMMARIZED EVENTS IN AFGHANISTAN SINCE THE MUJAHIDEEN TAKE-OVER FROM THE SOVIETS, LAMENTED THE DWINDLING NUMBER OF EDUCATED "PROGRESSIVE" AFGHANS REMAINING IN AFGHANISTAN, AND FOCUSSED ON RECENT POLITICAL EVENTS -- PARTICULARLY THE RISE OF THE TALIBAN AND THE DIMUNITION OF HEKMATYAR'S POWER.




6. ON THE TALIBAN, SHAH PORTRAYED THEM AS A PREDOMINANTLY DURRANI PASHTUN, LARGELY RURAL, UNSOPHISTICATED, EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE FORCE. THEY HAVE SUCCEEDED IN GAINING CONTROL OF SIX PROVINCES (HELMAND, KANDAHAR, ZABUL, GHAZNI, WARDAK, AND PAKTIKA), AND, THEREFORE, A SIGNIFICANT FORCE WITH WHOM TO BE RECKONED. WE NOTE THAT RADIO KHORASAN FEB 19 REPORTED THE TALIBAN TOOK CONTROL OF PAKTIKA PROVINCE WITHOUT A FIGHT AS FORCES OF JAMIAT-I ISLAMI (RABBANI) AND HARIKAT-I INQILAB-I ISLAMI (MUHAMMAD NABI) IN EFFECT HANDED THEM THE PROVINCE.


An important description of the Taliban -- Pashtun, rural, conservative.... This corresponds to their reported origin in the border area near Pakistan, and indicates they have ethnic ties with a significant part of the Pakistani population.

It is worth recalling that Pakistan's northern border area is where the mujahideen staged out of during the 1980's jihad against the Soviets.

This border area also has a great many religious schools on the Pakistani side. This is undoubtedly where many of the Taliban were recruited from.

The religious schools have grown in quantity in recent decades, and their representatives function somewhat as chaplains in the Pakistani Army. There are extensive ties between the Pakistani Army and these madrassas. The system of religious schools in Pakistan and their influence and impact will be the subject of upcoming posts.



7. THE TALIBAN ARE ALSO A DEEPLY CONSERVATIVE FORCE, BENT ON IMPLEMENTING DECREES IN THE SOCIAL ARENA BOUND TO GRATE ON MOST KABULIS, SHAH STATED. IN ADDITION TO THE BANS ON SOCCER, JUDO, AND KARATE MENTIONED REFTEL, SHAH SAID THE TALIBAN HAD ALSO FORBIDDEN CHESS-PLAYING AND MUSIC. THEY WERE ACTIVELY DESTROYING MUSIC CASSETTES. WHILE KEEPING BOYS' SCHOOLS OPEN, THEY WERE CLOSING GIRLS' SCHOOLS. THEY HAD RELENTED A BIT ON EARLIER DECREES BANNING WOMEN IN THE BAZAARS, NOW PERMITTING THEM IF VEILED IN THE CHADOR/BURKA AND ACCOMPANIED BY A MAN. THEY, OBVIOUSLY, OPPOSED WOMEN WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME. SHAH FELT THE SUM TOTAL OF THESE BANS WOULD WIN THEM LITTLE POPULAR SUPPORT AMONG THE MORE URBANIZED, SOPHISTICATED INHABITANTS OF KABUL. THEIR PREDOMINANT DURRANI PASHTUN ETHNICITY WOULD ALSO WORK AGAINST THEM IN WINNING OVER THE POPULACE OF KABUL.


Ethnic and cultural differences -- the Taliban came from a different world, and were not well-received among the relatively cosmopolitan people of Kabul.



8. NEVERTHELESS, SHAH ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE TALIBAN ENJOYED A DEGREE OF POPULAR SUPPORT IN THE AREAS THEY NOW CONTROLLED BECAUSE THEY HAD DISARMED RIVAL MUJAHEDIN GROUPS AND RESTORED SECURITY, PARTICULARLY FOR ROAD TRAVEL.


The security of roads was an issue most people could agree on -- perhaps especially the more urbanized people, who rely on supplies brought in from elsewhere?

HEKMATYAR, A SPENT FORCE
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9. SHAH CONFIRMED PRESS REPORTS OF THE PREVIOUS WEEK OF AN EASY TALIBAN VICTORY OVER HEKMATYAR AT CHARASIAB. HE CLAIMED THAT MASUD'S FORCES ACTUALLY ENTERED CHARASIAB ONE DAY BEFORE THE TALIBAN ARRIVED, IMMEDIATELY AFTER HEKMATYAR'S FORCES FLED THE CITY. MASUD'S FORCES TOOK POSSESSION OF HEKMATYAR'S HEAVY WEAPONRY ABANDONED IN THEIR HASTY FLIGHT. MASUD'S FORCES, IN TURN, ALSO VACATED THE CITY AT THE REQUEST OF THE TALIBAN, TAKING THEIR NEWLY GAINED WEAPONRY WITH THEM. AT THE SAME TIME AS OCCUPYING CHARASIAB, THE TALIBAN TOOK MAYDAN SHAHR AND CHOWK-I WARDAK, AS WELL AS THE ROAD FROM GHAZNI LEADING TO KABUL, TO CONTROL TOTALLY WARDAK PROVINCE.

10. SHAH CLAIMED HEKMATYAR HAD NOW FLED TO LAGHMAN, LEAVING SAROBI (ALTHOUGH HIG FORCES STILL CONTROLLED SAROBI). MANY OF HIS COMMANDERS HAD DISPERSED EVEN WIDER AFIELD FROM CHARASIAB. HEKMATYAR NOW ONLY CONTROLLED ONE PROVINCE, LAGHMAN, IN SHAH'S ASSESSMENT. WITH THE LOSS OF HEAVY WEAPONRY, THE DISPERSAL OF HIS COMMANDERS, AND EFFECTIVE CONTROL OVER ONLY ONE PROVINCE, SHAH PRONOUNCED HEKMATYAR A SPENT MILITARY FORCE.

11. IN SHAH'S ASSESSMENT, ONLY THREE SIGNIFICANT MILITARY FORCES REMAINED IN AFGHANISTAN: THE TALIBAN, DOSTOM'S JOMBESH, AND "THE GOVERNMENT," BY WHICH SHAH MEANT THE FORCES OF RABBANI, MASUD, AND ISMAIL KHAN (IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN). HE DISMISSED GAILANI, KHALIS, SAYYAF, AND MUHAMMAD NABI AS INCAPABLE OF MOUNTING SERIOUS MILITARY CHALLENGES. THE SHI'A HIZB-I WAHDAT WAS ONLY MARGINNALY MORE CAPABLE.


Of course, Hekmatyar is now, as of 2008, considered to have sided with the Taliban, and Dostum is part of the current government in Kabul, although there has been trouble between him and other elements of the government. See Genesis, Part 5 for a little more info on Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Afghan Government Tries to Arrest General Dostum for information about General Dostum.

SEEKING U.S. ADVICE
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12. AMB AND POL/ECON CHIEF NOTED THAT AMB MESTIRI WAS IN KABUL AND THAT TODAY, FEB 20, WAS THE DATE PRESIDENT RABBANI WAS SUPPOSED TO TURN OVER POWER TO THE INTERIM COUNCIL MESTIRI HAD SO PAINSTAKINGLY PIECED TOGETHER. SHAH, IN LIGHT OF THE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS HE HAD DESCRIBED ABOVE, ASKED FOR U.S. ADVICE. WE RESPONDED THAT THE USG CONTINUED TO STRONGLY SUPPORT MESTIRI'S EFFORTS. WE BELIEVED THAT RABBANI SHOULD STILL TURN OVER POWER TO THE INTERIM COUNCIL UNDER UN AUSPICES. NOT TO DO SO NOW WOULD BE A SEVERE SETBACK TO UN EFFORTS AND MIGHT PROVIDE THE TALIBAN AN EXCUSE TO MAKE WAR ON KABUL. IN ADDITION, AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY TO BRING INTO EXISTENCE AN AFGHAN GOVERNING BODY OF GREATER LEGITIMACY IN THE EYES OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WOULD BE LOST.

13. SHAH ARGUED THAT CONDITIONS HAD CHANGED SINCE MESTIRI'S PLANNED INTERIM COUNCIL. ALTHOUGH RABBANI STILL INTENDED TO RESIGN AT SOME TIME, HE SHOULD NOT TURN OVER POWER TO THE INTERIM COUNCIL IF THE TALIBAN WERE NOT MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL. IF THE POWERFUL TALIBAN, WHICH ENJOYED SOME DEGREE OF POPULAR SUPPORT, DID NOT JOIN THE COUNCIL, IT WOULD BE DEAD UPON ARRIVAL. WE RESPONDED THAT MESTIRI AND HIS AIDES WERE TALKING TO THE TALIBAN AND TRYING TO GAIN THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF THE INTERIM COUNCIL. FROM THE LITTLE WE KNEW ABOUT THE TALIBAN LEADERS, IT APPEARED THEY HAD NOT RULED OUT COOPERATION WITH MESTIRI -- ALTHOUGH THEY HAD FREQUENTLY RAILED AGAINST THE MUJAHEDIN LEADERS AND THEIR TANZIMAT. ALL IN ALL, WE BELIEVED IT BETTER FOR RABBANI TO SURRENDER POWER TO THE INTERIM COUNCIL, WHILE MESTIRI WORKED TO BRING ALONG THE TALIBAN.


It is difficult to assess from this cable the sincerity of Rabbani's viewpoint, as communicated by Shah.

14. SHAH ACKNOWLEDGED THE RATIONALE OF SOME OF OUR ARGUMENTS BUT HELD TO HIS BELIEF THAT RABBANI SHOULD NOT SURRENDER POWER AT THIS TIME. HE ASKED THAT WE CONVEY HIS VIEWS TO WASHINGTON POLICY-MAKERS, WHICH WE PROMISED TO DO.

COMMENT
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15. [redacted in its entirety]

16. [redacted in its entirety]

17. [redacted in its entirety]

ACTION REQUEST
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18. SEPTEL SEEKS SPECIFIC GUIDANCE FROM THE DEPT IN RESPONS TO ANOTHER QUERY FROM SHAH. AT THE TIME WE RESPOND TO SHAH ON THAT QUESTION WE WOULD APPRECIATE ANY FURTHER GUIDANCE FROM THE DEPT CONCERNING CURRENT U.S. POLICY VIS-A-VIS MESTIRI'S PLANNED INTERIM COUNCIL AND THE TRANSFER OF POWER QUESTION, WHICH WE WOULD LIKE ALSO TO SHARE WITH SHAH. OUR INTERLOCUTOR WILL WAIT IN DUSHANBE A DAY OR TWO LONGER FOR FURTHER ELABORATION.

2 comments:

English Rose said...

Hi Yankee,
thanks for dropping by,
Hope you are well,
Take care x

WomanHonorThyself said...

hiya YD..I read this but admittedly dont know enough bg info to even try to intelligently comment!..:).great work buddy~!