Cablegate: Humanitarian Operations Center to Decentralize

Published: Sun 7 Aug 2005 10:33 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
071033Z Aug 05
E.O. 12958: N/A
B. KUWAIT 1120
This cable is sensitive but unclassified; please protect
accordingly. Not for Internet distribution.
1. (U) Summary and Comment: At an August 2 meeting at the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MFA International Organizations
Department Director Ambassador Abdullah Murad said that the
Humanitarian Operations Center (HOC) offices would be closing
down on August 10, but said that the MFA would try to
continue the services of the HOC by delegating them to the
relevant ministries and agencies throughout Kuwait. He
outlined how each specific task previously facilitated by the
HOC would now be facilitated by the individual ministries,
and assured all those present that the GOK was still
committed to the goals of the HOC. United Nations
representatives at the meeting expressed strong concern about
the decentralization of the HOC's operations and asked,
unsuccessfully, that the HOC continue as is until the
approval by the National Assembly of an MOU between the
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the
GOK, expected in October or November. HOC Chief, General
(ret) Ali Al-Mumin, said that he would compile a list of all
the names and phone numbers of the HOC representatives in
each ministry and make that available to the UN and all of
the NGOs. Comment: Embassy interventions succeeded in
keeping the HOC open far longer than intended by the GOK. At
this time, we judge that additional efforts would not be
successful and we will press for prompt approval of the UNAMI
MOU. End Summary and Comment.
MFA Commits to Keeping HOC Services Going
2. (U) Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
International Organizations (I/O) Department Ambassador
Abdullah Murad hosted a meeting August 2 to discuss the
future operations of the Humanitarian Operations Center (Ref
A). Present at the meeting were Embassy Officers, U.S.
military personnel detailed to the HOC and from CFLCC, UN
personnel, HOC Chief General (ret) Ali Al-Mumin, and other
MFA I/O personnel. Murad opened the meeting by saying that
the current physical HOC location would be closed down but
that the MFA would "try to keep all of the services going."
General Ali said that the MFA had just met August 1 with all
of the GOK ministries and agencies involved with the HOC and
all had agreed to continue providing the HOC services from
within their own organizations. He said that, as of August
10, the HOC would no longer take on any new tasks or
responsibilities, and that all services should be requested
directly through the relevant ministry.
3. (U) General Ali commented on a number of the specific
functions in which the HOC has been involved and explained
how those functions would continue. He said that, after the
HOC location shuts down on August 10, Iraqi returning
refugees would still have their transportation facilitated
"for a week or two" and then direct transportation would be
arranged from the airport to the Abdali border crossing. For
health cases, General Ali said that he would like to continue
the HOC's work in this regard but that there would be a
"snag" on some private patients coming from Iraq to Kuwait
for treatment. He said that the Ministry of Health would
need to approve each individual case. For Customs,
specifically how the NGOs would get Customs exemptions on
humanitarian supplies entering Kuwait destined for Iraq,
General Ali said that he, an assistant and a liaison officer
stationed at the UN compound would all have the authority to
sign an exemption from Customs duties. He said that the
Kuwait Customs Agency did not want to take the responsibility
themselves on this matter.
4. (U) General Ali added that he would send a form to all
HOC participating ministries and ask each one to provide the
name and contact information for those responsible for
continuing the HOC functions within each ministry. He said
that a list of qualified NGOs would also be distributed to
all ministries. Econ Officer encouraged them to do this as
soon as possible, preferably before the August 10 cut-off
UN Not Happy, Needs MOU Approved
5. (U) UN Resident Coordinator Moez Doraid thanked the GOK
and the MFA specifically for all of its support for the HOC
and the UN, and voiced the UN's desire to see the HOC
continue to operate "as is." He explained that UNAMI is
still waiting for its own MOU to be ratified and, in the
absence of a UNAMI MOU with the GOK, the HOC continued to
serve a critical function. He welcomed a HOC liaison officer
in the UN compound, but asked if it would still be possible
for the UN and NGOs to have one physical focal point to go to
for all of their needs. He repeatedly asked if there was any
way to keep the HOC functioning exactly as is until the UNAMI
MOU is approved by the National Assembly. MFA I/O Director
Murad made it clear that this would not be an option, as far
as he was concerned, and that the two issues could not be
6. (U) Murad again emphasized that each ministry would
provide the necessary HOC services and that he and General
Ali would take responsibility for this. When U.S. Army Col.
Carlos Trejo explained how critical the HOC has been to
health functions, Murad said that the MFA was "simply
dividing up the work" and moving offices and not closing down
the HOC. UN officials again pushed for continuation of the
HOC as is and were told that it was not possible and that
everyone needs to trust the MFA to handle this transition.
He said that the MFA "will always find a solution." Col.
Trejo explained that the U.S. military and CFLCC would do
what they could to continue to support the HOC but support
and services would almost certainly not be available as they
had been previously.
Confusion Reigns Among HOC Staff
7. (U) Political Officer met August 6 with Lt. Col. Price
and Col. Trejo to discuss the HOC closure in further detail.
According to the two American officers, the HOC's operations
will cease on August 10th and the building with all offices
and support personnel will shut down on August 30th. General
Ali will take no more than three personnel with him to his
office in Shuwaikh. Coalition personnel (i.e. uniformed
officers and NCOs) will no longer be required and General Ali
himself told Col. Trejo that he would make no effort to
prolong their stay. In addition, the GOK is to designate a
Liaison Officer to UNAMI to assist with the additional NGO
workload and General Ali's office would put out a list of
contacts which will be able to provide support in lieu of the
Immigration and Medical officers.
8. (SBU) According to Col. Trejo, General Ali feels strongly
that the NGOs need to move over to UNAMI even if UNAMI
doesn't share this view. (Note: Col. Trejo met with UNAMI
staff last week and reportedly they believed the exact
opposite. End Note.) In addition, both officers said that
there was confusion amongst the staff at the HOC, with most
saying that the HOC is 'ending', 'closing, and 'disbanding',
not/not moving to other offices. Finally, Col. Trejo and Lt.
Col. Price spoke of the intense dislike that many of the
staff had for General Ali and the fact that many refused to
follow him to another office, with one retiring and one
transferring as soon as possible, in order to ensure that
they were not called upon to share a workspace with him
again. The animosity is so intense that one secretary took
off her shoe to demonstrate what she thought of the former
Chief of Staff. General Ali will retain control of the $5
million designated for Najaf and is still in the running for
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Iraq, although another candidate has
also been identified, according to Lt. Col. Price.
9. (U) Basrah minimize considered.
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