Cablegate: Pakistan Ambassador Questions Jirgas

Published: Sun 3 Dec 2006 06:38 AM
DE RUEHBUL #5653/01 3370638
O 030638Z DEC 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KABUL 005653
REF: A. KABUL 5625
B. KABUL 5569
C. STATE 193719
Classified By: Ambassador Ronald Neumann for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
1. (C) SUMMARY: During November 28-29 meetings with the Ambassador, Pakistan Ambassador to Afganistan Sardar Tariq Azizuddin, noting that he was speaking personally without instructions, raised fundamental questions on the meaning and purpose of the cross-border jirgas. Searching for possible alternatives to the concept agreed to in Washington, at one point, Azzizuddin even proposed that the GOA hold its own jirga with the Taliban. His other "personal" proposal was that, instead of a large national jirga, the two sides should hold small tribal assemblies to test the waters. The Ambassador suggested that Pakistan not get hung up on the terminology or the venue but rather focus on the shared aim of dealing with the common threat (the Taliban). His message was that there should be no power sharing with the Taliban, the jirgas should not contravene the state or constitution, and that the two sides needed to work directly together as soon as possible to avoid locked in positions. Azizuddin was greatly surprised to learn that the UNAMA-delivered paper on the jirgas was not from the GOA but was UNAMA's interpretation of Afghanistan's views on the proposal. Azizuddin layed out the format for the planned December 7 Foreign Ministers' meeting, which will feature a two-hour bilateral meeting between the Foreign Ministers, followed by a longer meeting with President Karzai. Azizuddin went out of his way to stress the importance the GOP sees in close consultations with the U.S. and hoped the December 7 meetings would be productive. END SUMMARY
2. (C) Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sardar Tariq Azizuddin, requested an urgent meeting with the Ambassador November 28, who subsequently also agreed to a follow-up meeting on November 29. Azizuddin did not indicate he was acting on instructions from Islamabad, but rather characterized his concerns as ‘personal questions.’
What is this Jirga Thing About?
3. (C) During the November 28 meeting, Ambassador Azizuddin characterized the proposed Afghanistan-Pakistan jirga as a Washington process and asked a number of questions about the origin of the proposal, the intent, and how it will play out.
Again, reiterating that it was a ‘personal point of interest’ he wanted to know how fully President Karzai had explained the jirga concept to President Bush. He asked, perhaps rhethorically, why the other mechanisms that ‘civilized nations have for political engagement’ (i.e., Parliament and diplomats) were not suggested and asked the Ambassador whether the proposal was ‘impulsive’ or well thought out.
4. (C) While acknowledging that President Musharraf had agreed to the proposal in ‘good faith,’ Azizuddin restated familiar objections that the jirgas are not a Pakistani tradition, but specifically a Pashtun tradition, whereas in Afghanistan they are codified in the Constitution. This led him to three additional questions: 1) jirgas are conducted in Pashto, which Musharraf does not speak so how can there be a real dialogue? When Musharraf meets tribal representatives in Peshawar, they speak to him in Urdu and he responds in Urdu; 2) this kind of cross-border jirga is unprecedented, so what are the two sides going to do? Will they admit publicly that normal political and diplomatic channels have failed? 3) What are the major problems that bedevil Afghanistan? Are Taliban the major problem?
Then Why Not Invite the Taliban
5. (C) Finally, Azizuddin came right out and asked whether it wouldn,t be possible for Afghanistan to hold its own jirga and invite the Taliban. The Ambassador rejected this suggestion, saying that while it was possible to discuss reconciliation of Taliban members with the current government system, and mechanisms for doing so already existed, it would not be possible to reopen negotiations with a fanatical organization seeking to reimpose its totalitarian ideology on Afghanistan. It would be very destabilizing for Afghanistan to suggest that the Bonn and London agreements could be reopened. There can be no suggestion of a role for the Taliban in power, as this would result in a catastrophic undermining of confidence in the Afghan government.
Get Past the Term "Jirga"
6. (C) The Ambassador urge Azizuddin to put aside, for a moment, the term jirga and focus on the practical aspects of the problem. An agreement had been made between three heads of state for a dialogue. There is a problem that both the Pakistani and Afghan sides face, a common menace in the Taliban. What do the two parties want to achieve and how can they do that? That, said the Ambassador, is the discussion that needs to occur between the two sides and there is not much the US can do to be helpful until the conversation takes place. Azizuddin demured that it would be impossible to do when the two sides were so far apart and suggested that all the two sides could do at this point would be to cast blame on each other. He did note that the Pakistani FM would be in Afghanistan on December 7 for discussions on the jirga but offered no insight into either his agenda or approach, nor did he seem to know.
U.S. Bottom Line: No Power Sharing With the Taliban and Watch Cross-Border Activity
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7. (C) The Ambassador reiterated that there can be no power sharing with the Taliban. The war against the Taliban has to be won. Azizuddin complained that the Afghans want the Pakistanis to keep the Afghan refugees (who he earlier described as the ‘scum’ of Afghan society) indefinitely, which would be destabilizing for Pakistan. The Ambassador reminded Azizuddin that these same people had twice tried to kill his president and suggested that the GOP should take a firm line. ‘How long will the 38 nations engaged in a war employ restraint in the face of escalating cross-border provocations?’
Can Jirgas Really Be the Solution?
8. (C) Azizuddin returned to the Embassy November 29 for a follow-up meeting and continued similar themes from the previous day, this time accompanied by his DCM Asif Durrani. Following a brief discussion of the London Telegraph article reported in ref A, Azizuddin reiterated that he had not come under instructions from his government but was speaking out of personal interest. He reminded us of Pakistan,s support for Afghanistan against the Soviets and that the Pakistani people held a vast amount of goodwill toward the Afghans. He said everyone was looking for solutions to the border issue and asked the Ambassador how he saw the jirga as a solution.
9. (C) The Ambassador responded that the jirgas had a strategic purpose, i.e., if they could be kept in the simple mode of enabling tribal leaders to take unified positions against extremism in support of government, that would be a positive outcome. He cautioned that the jirgas should not be characterized as contravening the Afghan state structure, noting that there was some nervousness among Uzbeks, Hazaras, and others that the jirgas could lead to a reversing of the constitutional process. He told Azizuddin that the U.S. had been urging the GOA to work directly with GOP counterparts to avoid each side locking in positions which could endanger flexibility down the road.
10. (C) Azizuddin wondered if the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was not a better vehicle for advancing cross-border inter-tribal relations. Ambassador explained that the Ministry had been gutted, which was not necessarily a bad thing. Both Ambassadors agreed that the tribal structure had been weakened and fragmented over time, although Ambassador Neumann disagreed with Azizuddin's assertion that there was a collective radicalization of the tribes, since, for example, not all Pashtuns were Taliban.
11. (C) Azizuddin suggested that “rather than go headlong into a joint jirga assembly", another view in Pakistan sees smaller assemblies as more practical, as they could (a) test the waters and (b) avoid raising expectations by getting right down to working at the tribal level in the border areas. Azizuddin saw this approach as having a domino effect that would generate "similarities of interest". He continued that once both sides had sharpened the process, then the two could meet in a larger assembly to ‘commemorate’ their respective achievements. Azizuddin stressed that this was his personal idea.
12. (C) The Ambassador commented that the Afghan side might have two possible reactions to this proposal. First, the GOA would be concerned about timing and might see this approach as drifting the process out too long. Second, the Afghans will not want to go to a purely tribal jirga format and will continue to seek a national structure which can satisfy Parliament and other civil society elements to demonstrate that this is not just a Pashtun issue.
UNAMA Paper and Role in Jirgas: Not A GOA Paper?
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13. (C) Azizuddin asked for the Ambassador,s view on the UNAMA paper which Azizuddin understood (until this meeting)
to have come from the GOA via UNAMA. The Ambassador explained that the paper was a UNAMA interpretation of GOA views on the jirgas, not a GOA paper (ref B). Azizuddin was genuinely surprised by this news, as he had understood that UNAMA had presented it as ‘an Afghan paper being given to you on behalf of the GOA’. The Ambassador advised Azizuddin not to treat the paper as a formal document requiring a formal response. He said that both Karzai and UNAMA have confirmed that the paper has no official status and suggested that it would be useful for the GOP to accept this view.
14. (C) Azizuddin asked about the role of UNAMA in the jirgas and wondered if UNAMA was not exceeding its mandate. The Ambassador responded that a more careful discussion with the GOA on what precise role UNAMA and other entities should play would be constructive.
Foreign Ministers to Discuss Details December 7
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15. (C) Azizuddin recounted GOP surprise at the way in which jirga preparations had proceeded. He said that no official channels had been used. At their last meeting with President Karzai, the latter only said that the two Foreign Ministers should sit down and discuss modalities. Now, FM Kusuri would be coming to Kabul on December 7 to go over modalities, the timeline for moving forward, and other preparations. Azizuddin stressed that the GOP did not want this process to preclude the use of normal diplomatic bilateral channels. Azizuddin then layed out the format for the December 7 meeting, which will feature a two-hour bilateral meeting between the Foreign Ministers, followed by a longer meeting with President Karzai. Azizuddin went out of his way to stress the importance the GOP sees in close consultations with the U.S. and hoped he could report that the December 7 meetings would be productive.
Pakistan Jirga Team Not Chosen Yet
16. (C) Azizuddin reported that Farouk Wardak, the GOA jirga planning committee Secretary General, recently called him seeking the names of the jirga planning committee members on the Pakistan side. (Note: GOA planning document prepared by Wadak's office e-mailed to SCA/A and Islamabad. End Note) Azizuddin responded that the GOP had not chosen names yet, as the issue was still sensitive and politically charged in Pakistan. Parliamentarians were arguing that, as representatives of the Pakistani people, they should participate. Many will resent the participation of others if Parliament is excluded, Azizuddin explained.
Moving Forward
17. (C) The Ambassador suggested that all of Azizuddin's questions should be put to the Afghans directly, as they were only thinking conceptually at this stage. He offered that the two countries' state structures did not mesh, which meant that both sides would need to bring maximum flexibility to the table. The Ambassador further suggested that the two Foreign Ministers focus on areas on which the two sides could agree, -- e.g., on such points as the jirgas will produce no legally binding agreements and the structures will not displace normal bilateral relations but rather complement them )- in order to narrow differences for future meetings.
18. (C) Azizuddin expressed "Pakistani nervousness in some quarters” that, since the jirga proposal had the ‘moral authority and weight’ of President Bush, he was expecting quick timelines and results. The Ambassador reminded Azizuddin that President Bush did endorse the agreement and that it would be hard now to walk away from the concept. He explained that it was not a concept that the U.S. put on the table, but one that we endorsed. Azizuddin reassured us that Foreign Minister Kasuri would bring much sincerity and goodwill to his meeting on December 7 and reiterated that both Pakistanis and Afghans shared these sentiments in vast quantities.
19. (C) COMMENT: It is unclear if Azizuddin came to the meeting uninstructed and whether his proposal for a lesser jirga was not a trial balloon being floated by Islamabad. What is clear is that both sides have miles to go -- both in terms of direct outreach and greater accommodation to the constitutional and institutional biases that each brings to the table )- before they can start addressing the common threat facing both countries on the border. As instructed in ref C, we will urge the GOA to use its December 7-9 meetings with FM Kasuri in Kabul to move things in the right direction.
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