Viewing cable 07THEHAGUE2082, NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: IT'S OFFICIAL! TWO MORE
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|07THEHAGUE2082||2007-12-21 12:12||2011-01-17 00:12||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy The Hague|
VZCZCXYZ0002 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHTC #2082/01 3551225 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 211225Z DEC 07 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0844 INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2743 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0344 RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0132 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 002082 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/RPM, SCA E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/20/2017 TAGS: PGOV PREL NATO AF NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: IT'S OFFICIAL! TWO MORE YEARS IN URUZGAN Classified... " 135376,12/21/2007 12:25,07THEHAGUE2082,"Embassy The Hague",CONFIDENTIAL,,"VZCZCXYZ0002 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHTC #2082/01 3551225 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 211225Z DEC 07 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0844 INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2743 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0344 RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0132 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY ","C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 002082 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/RPM, SCA E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/20/2017 TAGS: PGOV PREL NATO AF NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: IT'S OFFICIAL! TWO MORE YEARS IN URUZGAN Classified By: CDA Andrew Schofer, reasons 1.4 (b,d) ¶1. (C) Summary: The GONL obtained broad support on December 20 from the Dutch parliament in favor of extending its ISAF mission in Uruzgan province until December 2010. This officially brings to a close months of internal Dutch deliberations on the controversial extension issue, and ensures that the Dutch troops will remain committed to Uruzgan for the next three years despite serious political misgivings and a lack of popular support at home. End summary. ¶2. (C) The Dutch parliament on December 20 officially gave its consent to an additional two-year plus extension of its ISAF mission in Uruzgan from August 2008 until December 2010, voting down by a count of 98 to 42 (with 10 absences) a motion by the Socialist Party to withdraw troops at the end of the current mandate. While parliament does not constitutionally have the authority to approve any Dutch deployment overseas -- and votes represented in parliament by the coalition parties technically gave the GONL a majority -- the GONL nevertheless stressed the political importance of garnering broad support for the mission. (Note: According to Dutch Parliamentary tradition, members planning to be absent from an important vote ""twin"" with a member from the opposing side. Had all members been present, therefore, the vote would have been 103 in favor to 47 against -- slightly more than a two-thirds majority. End note.) ¶3. (C) The GONL obtained this broad support when the opposition Liberal Party (VVD) and Political Calvinist Party (SGP) joined coalition parties the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA), the Labor Party (PvdA), and Christian Unie (CU). As the largest and most influential opposition party on the right, VVD's support was crucial. Throughout the debate, VVD Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hans van Baalen consistently asked the GONL to justify the new mission in terms of improved structure, financing, new contributions from other partners, sufficient transport and Allied support to extract Dutch troops in case of an emergency, and clarity of the Afghan government's promise to deploy security forces to Uruzgan. ¶4. (C) Despite GONL efforts to satisfy van Baalen's concerns, VVD's support for the new mission was not assured until the parliamentary debate over the extension on December 17. Former Defense Minister and still influential VVD parliamentarian Henk Kamp insisted on upholding the original agreement between NATO and the Netherlands consisting of a two-year deployment to August 2008 -- as indicated by a December 2005 letter from former SACEUR Gen. Jones to Dutch CHOD Gen. Berlijn. Key demands for VVD's continued support included a clear exit by Dutch troops from Uruzgan by December 2010 and recognition by NATO that it is responsible for finding a successor to the Dutch, as well as the understanding that the GONL will not participate in any other major peacekeeping operation until 2010. Ultimately, van Baalen was satisfied by the GONL's case to remain in Uruzgan -- including especially the promise that new or unforeseen costs associated with the extension would not affect the defense budget -- and pledged his party's unanimous support. Strong Government Case ---------------------- ¶5. (C) During three rounds of parliamentary debate on December 17-18, the GONL confidently pitched the case in favor of extending, answering 577 questions submitted by parliament on the matter. FM Verhagen said he had received a letter from NATO SYG de Hoop Scheffer acknowledging that Dutch troops will leave Uruzgan by December 2010. Verhagen reiterated that he informed his counterparts at the NATO foreign ministerial on December 10 the Dutch would withdraw by December 2010. He also made clear that the Netherlands would not participate in any other major operation that might affect the Dutch deployment in Afghanistan. Verhagen stressed the importance of the international community reviewing its collective long-term efforts in Afghanistan, including specifically a ""master strategy"" -- he said this will be discussed at the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest. ¶6. (C) Defense Minister van Middelkoop argued that the extended mission will not harm Dutch military readiness, and made several reassurances regarding the Australian partnership and the quality of various contributions from France, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. He had hoped for additional partners, but did not foresee any problems working with these contributions, and suggested that the Czech Republic might be willing to extend its parliamentary mandated six-month deployment to a year. Van Middelkoop was confident that the GONL could finance the new mission, including 370 million Euros of additional funding per year. Development Minister Koenders made the case in favor of meaningful reconstruction despite the challenging security situation. He noted that the Uruzgan PRT would be placed under civilian leadership by August 1, 2009. Opposing View ------------- ¶7. (C) The Socialists and Green Left led the charge opposing the extension, arguing that parliament was deliberately misled to support a ""combat"" mission in the guise of reconstruction. Green Left floorleader Halsema argued that the ISAF mission -- in conjunction with OEF -- has enabled a corrupt Karzai government, and has been responsible for unnecessary civilian casualties. Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) also opposed the mission, but for different reasons. Wilders said he supported the ISAF mission, but felt that the Netherlands had ""done its fair share"" -- time for another Ally to step up and serve in the south. The GONL had hoped to persuade D-66 to join proponents of the extension, but D-66 floorleader Pechtold cited the absence of a clear strategy among NATO, the UN, and the EU as the main reason why he opposes a new mission. ¶8. (C) In all, the Socialist Party (SP), Green Left, PVV, D66 and the Party for the Animals opposed the mission. Opposition actually grew in comparison to the initial mission, due primarily to election gains by the Socialists and Green Left in the last election, and votes lost by VVD to Wilders' PVV off-shoot. Opposition parties sponsored four total motions on the extension: withdrawing Dutch troops by August 2008 (SP), conveying disappointment to NATO over perceived lack of support (SP), publicly releasing the December 2005 letter from former SACEUR Gen. Jones to Gen. Berlijn (D-66), and calling for better compensation for victims of civilian casualties (Green Left) -- all four motions were voted down. Rita Verdonk, who until recently had been a member of VVD, also voted against the extension. Something All Could Agree On ---------------------------- ¶9. (C) Parties all across the political spectrum expressed deep dissatisfaction with NATO and the lack of solidarity in supporting the Dutch extension in Uruzgan. Proponents of the extension were quick to thank the French, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and Georgians, but questioned why other Allies had not agreed to do more. PvdA spokesperson Martijn van Daam noted disappointment with NATO partners; VVD spokesperson van Baalen called on greater Allies powers -- such as Germany -- to do more. Critics made the perceived lack of NATO solidarity a centerpiece in their opposition to the extension. Wilders based his decision solely on this point; D-66 spokesperson Pechtold described the lack of solidarity as damaging for NATO, and creates a false sense of security for the people of Uruzgan. The Socialists accused NATO of ""not keeping its part of the bargain,"" as evidenced by the Jones-Berlijn letter. Public Opinion -------------- ¶10. (SBU) Despite the broad support in parliament, Dutch public support for the extension remains low. According to the latest opinion polls, 43 percent oppose any extension, approximately 25 percent are in favor, with the remaining almost 33 percent feeling indifferent. ¶11. (C) Dutch media coverage has been mixed, largely ignoring the extension story once it became clear the GONL would obtain a strong parliamentary majority. Most major dailies focused on the latest developments in the Dutch Hell's Angels trial or Dutch soccer team AZ's loss in UEFA Cup play. Dutch daily Trouw (center-left) welcomed the extension, accused Wilders' of political opportunism, and deplored D-66's opposition in light of its long international tradition. The Trouw editorial suggested that stabilizing Afghanistan is a long-term effort, and therefore questioned GONL's decision to ""call it a day"" in 2010. It criticized the GONL for ""operating clumsily,"" while NATO Allies demonstrated ""little solidarity"" with the Netherlands. ¶12. (SBU) Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad (center-left) called for tempered expectations in the next two years, especially as ""not much"" has come from reconstruction efforts thus far. This editorial highlighted the importance of adopting an Afghanistan ""master plan"" at the NATO summit in Bucharest. Dutch daily Telegraaf (center-right; largest circulation in Netherlands) supports the extension, and published holiday wishes from most members of Cabinet on its front page, emphasizing support and respect for Dutch soldiers serving in Afghanistan. ¶13. (SBU) FM Verhagen acknowledged that the wide support in parliament for the extension is not reflected in the Dutch population -- ""at times, (parliament's) views will not reflect the opinion of a majority of the population."" He said he will focus on generating broader Dutch public support for the extension. Comment: Two Years is Two Years? -------------------------------- ¶14. (C) For all the drama (public flubs by van Middelkoop and Berlijn) and delays (GONL assurances that the decision would be complete by what seemed like an endless summer) associated with this extension question, the GONL once again did a masterful job of forcing a difficult decision with low public support through the Dutch parliament on a tight schedule. A key point in gaining the support of many parliamentarians was the promise that Dutch troops will leave Uruzgan by December ¶2010. However, the GONL decision mentions nothing of possible Dutch missions in other Afghan provinces, or a continued Dutch civilian presence in Uruzgan. According to MFA Task Force Uruzgan Coordinator Pieter-Jan Kleiweg on December 21, ""the door purposefully remains open"" -- and a lot can happen in two years time. Schofer