Viewing cable 10BERLIN157, DEFENSE MINISTER ZU GUTTENBERG REVEALS STRUGGLE
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|10BERLIN157||2010-02-04 16:04||2010-11-28 18:06||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Berlin|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 000157 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2020 TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS NATO GM AF SUBJECT: DEFENSE MINISTER ZU GUTTENBERG REVEALS STRUGGLE WITH FM WESTERWELLE ON TROOP INCREASE FOR AFGHANISTAN REF: A. BERLIN 138 ¶B. BERLIN 112 Classified By: AMBASSADOR PHILIP D. MURPHY. REASONS: 1.4 (B) AND (D). ¶1. (C) SUMMARY. Defense Minister zu Guttenberg revealed in a February 3 meeting with Ambassador Murphy that coalition partner FM Westerwelle -- not the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) -- had been the single biggest obstacle to the government seeking a bigger increase in German troops for Afghanistan. But even with the modest planned troop increase of 500 (with 350 more in reserve), zu Guttenberg said a restructuring of the current Bundeswehr presence would allow Germany to increase the number of soldiers involved in the training of Afghan National Army (ANA) by more than 1,000. While Westerwelle has portrayed his skepticism about additional troops as principled, it was also motivated by a desire to put zu Guttenberg "in his place." While the size of the troop increase is settled, the length of the new ISAF mandate remains open. The government is hoping to have the new mandate approved by the Bundestag before the end of February, with significant (if not majority) support from the opposition SPD and Greens. END SUMMARY. WESTERWELLE: BIGGEST OBSTACLE ¶2. (C) In explaining the lower-than-expected planned increase in the number of German troops for Afghanistan, zu Guttenberg told the Ambassador that Westerwelle's opening position in the coalition negotiations on the new mandate had been "not one additional soldier." In that context, it had been difficult to get agreement on any increase at all. (Comment: Zu Guttenberg proposed 1,500 additional troops at the initial January 4 mini-cabinet meeting on this issue. End Comment.) DOING A LOT MORE WITH A LITTLE MORE ¶3. (C) To help justify the need for more troops, zu Guttenberg said he had forced the Bundeswehr to do a complete review of all the existing positions in Afghanistan, which had confirmed that some could be eliminated in light of the new ISAF counterinsurgency strategy. He said a restructuring of the current Bundeswehr presence, combined with the troop increase, would boost the number of soldiers involved in the training of the Afghan National Army (ANA) from 280 to 1,400. The restructuring includes turning the battalion-size quick reaction force based in Mazar into a "protection and training" battalion. A second such battalion will be created in Kunduz by augmenting the existing infantry company there with new troops. Zu Guttenberg reiterated that Germany strongly supports COMISAF's focus on protection of the population and partnering with the Afghan national security forces (ANSF), and that the German "trainers" (i.e., the two new maneuver battalions) will operate in the field with the ANSF. PUTTING ZU GUTTENBERG IN HIS PLACE ¶4. (C) While zu Guttenberg said he is avoiding public comment on whether the outcome of the coalition talks on the new mandate is a "victory" for him or Westerwelle, FDP Defense Policy Spokesman Elke Hoff told poloff separately that Westerwelle's hard line against additional troops had been motivated in part to "teach zu Guttenberg a lesson." She claimed that zu Guttenberg had been too presumptuous last fall in making speeches in Canada and the U.S. about how Germany would significantly increase its troop contribution to ISAF. He might have been able to get agreement on a higher ceiling had he engaged parliamentarians first and showed "greater respect for the political process." OPEN QUESTION: LENGTH OF THE MANDATE ¶5. (C) Zu Guttenberg confirmed that the cabinet would formally agree on the proposed new ISAF mandate February 9 and that the first reading in the Bundestag would be February 10. FM Westerwelle is scheduled to speak on behalf of the government in introducing the proposed mandate. The government is aiming to hold the final Bundestag vote on the mandate -- following two weeks of committee hearings -- on February 26. Zu Guttenberg was BERLIN 00000157 002 OF 002 confident that a large number (if not a majority) of opposition politicians from the SPD and Greens would vote in favor of the new mandate. ¶6. (C) A February 2 meeting of state secretaries tentatively agreed that the new mandate should run, as is the custom, for one year, expiring in February 2011. Zu Guttenberg indicated, however, that it might be preferable to stick to the length of the current mandate, which expires in December 2010. He expressed concern that having the mandate lap over into early 2011 could lead to a premature debate on withdrawal, before the new strategy really had a chance to work. (Comment: Another option under consideration -- and favored by some in the Chancellery -- is a 18-month mandate, so that any debate on the future of the troop presence would be put off until the fall of ¶2011. But the MFA objects that this would only raise the ire of the opposition and give them an excuse to oppose the mandate. End Comment.) REASSURING THE GERMANS ON COMMAND OF THE NORTH ¶7. (C) Zu Guttenberg confirmed that Germany very much welcomed the planned inflow of U.S. forces into the north, especially the helicopter assets, which filled a long-standing shortfall. He noted, however, that many in Germany question whether the U.S. will be willing to accept continued German leadership of RC-North in view of the increased U.S. presence. Ambassador Murphy assured him that the U.S. had no issues working for the German command in the North. Murphy