Viewing cable 09THEHAGUE92, NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: GETTING TO YES POST-2010
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|09THEHAGUE92||2009-02-11 14:02||2011-01-17 00:12||SECRET||Embassy The Hague|
VZCZCXYZ0000 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHTC #0092/01 0421457 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 111457Z FEB 09 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2504 INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2781 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0382 RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T THE HAGUE 000092 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2019 TAGS: PGOV PREL NATO AF NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: GETTING TO YES POST-2010 REF: A. 07 THE HAGUE 2025 ¶B. 08 THE HAGUE 0728 ¶C. 09 THE HAGUE 0078 ... 191568,2/11/2009 14:57,09THEHAGUE92,"Embassy The Hague",SECRET,07THEHAGUE2025|08THEHAGUE728|09THEHAGUE78,"VZCZCXYZ0000 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHTC #0092/01 0421457 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 111457Z FEB 09 FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2504 INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2781 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0382 RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY ","S E C R E T THE HAGUE 000092 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2019 TAGS: PGOV PREL NATO AF NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: GETTING TO YES POST-2010 REF: A. 07 THE HAGUE 2025 ¶B. 08 THE HAGUE 0728 ¶C. 09 THE HAGUE 0078 Classified By: Political-Economic Counselor Andrew Mann for reasons 1.5 (b,d) ¶1. (S) SUMMARY: Dutch plans for Afghanistan post-2010 are evolving. Many in Parliament and the public think the Dutch should withdraw completely in 2010 since their forces have been on the ground with the U.S. since December 2001. Despite confidence in their own efforts, the Dutch perceive there is no winnable game plan for creating a stable democratic Afghanistan. Nonetheless, current indications from the government suggest the Netherlands may consider a request for some sort of follow-on mission after 2010. Getting to that ""yes"" will take extended, coordinated and discreet engagement by all concerned. END SUMMARY. Uncertainty about Dutch Deployment ---------------------------------- ¶2. (S) In December 2007, the Dutch Parliament agreed to extend its ISAF mission in Uruzgan for two years - until August 2010, followed by a complete withdrawal of Dutch troops under Task Force Uruzgan by December 2010. In private conversations, senior government officials have emphasized that the Dutch will stay on in some capacity in Afghanistan. Official public statements, however, are less forward-leaning. Foreign Minister Verhagen said during an appearance in Parliament on November 19, ""the Netherlands is lead nation, in Uruzgan until August 2010 and will then cut down its presence and leave by December 2010."" He added that the development relationship will continue for years, but he would not make any observations about military contributions after December 2010. At the same hearing, Defense Minister van Middelkoop stated the Dutch ""do not have the capabilities to sustain lead operations over several years."" During a December visit to Afghanistan, he said the Dutch were getting out of Afghanistan, even if incoming U.S. President Obama called him 10 times to stay. Prime Minister Balkenende later repudiated van Middelkoop,s remarks, stating a request by the new administration would be given careful consideration. The PM cautioned, however, ""A mission with as many troops as currently in Uruzgan is going to be difficult."" During his trip to Uruzgan on February 9, the PM further stated ""We have always said that we will terminate the leading role of the Netherlands in Uruzgan by 2010. But that does not mean that we will turn our back on Afghanistan. At least we will take responsibility after 2010 in the area of development cooperation and strengthening the administration."" ¶3. (C) In conversations with EUR/WE Director Pamela Spratlen January 15, Dutch MPs from the leading parties that supported the Afghanistan deployment in 2007 -- Labor (PvdA), Christian Democrats (CDA), and Liberals (VVD) -- told Spratlen the Dutch military needs a break from the Afghanistan deployment. ""It would be suicide for parties at this table"" to extend the Dutch mandate in Uruzgan beyond 2010, according to VVD member Han Ten Broeke, though this ""doesn't mean we couldn't be somewhere else... We made a promise to conclude in 2010."" CDA Defense spokesman Raymond Knops said it is ""possible the Dutch may contribute again in 2013 (after a two-year QDutch may contribute again in 2013 (after a two-year break)... We need some rest."" PvdA member Samira Bouchibti nodded at these comments, adding, ""we have to explain to the Dutch people why this matters."" ¶4. (SBU) Public support for the mission in Afghanistan is tracked monthly by the Ministry of Defense with the long term trend being basically stable (approximately 35-41% in favor, 30-37% opposed and 23-27% undecided). Recent short term trends have been somewhat negative with January support at 30%; April 2008 at 25% was the lowest. A consistent majority expresses pride in the Dutch troops in Uruzgan (60% in January), but public interest in Afghanistan is diminishing. Decision process ---------------- ¶5. (S) The initial, informal and unofficial process of deciding what to do after 2010 has begun at the senior levels in the Ministries. A meeting of the ""Gang of Six"" (Balkenende (CDA), Verhagen (CDA), Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Finance Bos (PvdA), Minister for Development Cooperation Koenders (PvdA), Deputy Prime Minister/Minister for Youth and Family Rouvet (Christian Union - CU), and van Middelkoop (CU)) to discuss post-2010 Afghanistan options was scheduled for January 29. It was postponed and has not yet been rescheduled. Following a request for post-2010 involvement (from NATO or the Afghan government), the Foreign Ministry will notify Parliament and with the Defense Ministry and Development Cooperation draw up a plan of engagement. The Cabinet will review and approve the plan, likely in the fall of 2009. The Cabinet will then send a letter to Parliament formally notifying it of the government's intent, initiating parliamentary review and debate (likely in late 2009 or early 2010). The decision will, as in 2007, follow an exhaustive review of key options including total withdrawal, reduction of contributions, reformation of forces, and repositioning of forces as well as testimony by outside experts. Dr. Henk Ormel, Chair of the Parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, told a university audience Feb. 10 that the wording of the 2007 mandate to leave Uruzgan left plenty of room for a future role in Afghanistan. He believes there will be a ""serious national discussion"" in late 2009 on the appropriate role for the Dutch focusing on defense, diplomacy and, especially, development (the 3D approach). KEY FACTORS FOR AFGHANISTAN POST-2010 ------------------------------------- ¶6. (S) Robert de Groot, MFA Deputy Director General for Political Affairs and the Ministry's point person on Afghanistan, counseled the POL/ECON Counselor in December 2008 not to view any one official's comments in isolation. He suggested we balance the Defense Minister's concern about an exhausted military with the Foreign Minister's call for greater resources for the military. He explained the government told Parliament during the 2007 debate the Netherlands would stop being the lead nation for Task Force Uruzgan in 2010, ""that is all we promised."" Nevertheless, de Groot said, before agreeing to a follow-on mission, the Dutch would be influenced by: - CENTCOM Gen. Petreaus's expected review of Afghan strategy; - The U.S. overall plan for stabilizing Afghanistan (perhaps, de Groot mused, we need a ""new platform - a post-ISAF Phase III"" for the south); - Canada's plans (since de Groot characterized its government's announcement pulling out of Afghanistan in 2010 as more categorical than the Dutch position); - The capacity of the Dutch military; - The new administration's/NATO's request of allies (de Groot thought very few allies had the capabilities to contribute more, in a meaningful way, in Afghanistan); - The ability of the Afghans to sustain development efforts; and - The willingness of the central government in Kabul to address governance issues (e.g., corruption). Declining Military Capabilities? -------------------------------- ¶7. (S) The Dutch were one of our first partners in Afghanistan, contributing a Special Forces Task Group, infantry troops and staff officers to ISAF in December 2001. Qinfantry troops and staff officers to ISAF in December 2001. Since then, they have served as co-lead of ISAF headquarters (Feb.-Aug. 2003), lead at PRT Pol-e-Khumri (Baglan Province 2004-2006), command of Regional Command-South (Nov. 06-May 07; Nov. 08-present), and lead of PRT Tarin Kowt and Task Force Uruzgan (Oct. 06-present) as well as contributing F-16s, attack and transport helicopters, intelligence assets and trainers. As recounted to visiting EUR/WE Office Director Spratlen by the MFA, the Dutch military, a volunteer force, is currently under strength (only 34,000 personnel out of an authorized 41,000), and Afghanistan has taken its toll. Yet, by August 2010, the Dutch military will be even more experienced and heavily invested in the mission in Afghanistan. While certain elements may have had ""all they can handle,"" the Dutch will retain significant capabilities to contribute to the overall ISAF mission in Afghanistan: command and staff elements; Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT); Provisional Reconstruction Teams (PRT); logistical support elements; limited battle group elements; close air support assets; intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance (ISTAR) elements; and staff billets. At the same time, other elements such as armored engineers and helicopter transport may not be combat-ready and, therefore, could limit the operations of the battle groups. Progress in Afghanistan Governance and Reconstruction --------------------------------------------- -------- ¶8. (S) The greatest single threat to Dutch engagement is the perception there is no coherent, winnable game plan for creating a stable, democratic Afghanistan. Dutch confidence in their military and civilian engagements at the local levels in Uruzgan remains strong. The Dutch, however, are frustrated by the ""bungling"" of the central government in Kabul. The Dutch question their own involvement in an international coalition that appears incapable or unwilling to develop a legitimate, sustainable Afghan government. Decision Makers --------------- ¶9. (S) As in 2007, the important players within the Cabinet on this issue are Balkenende, Verhagen and, to a lesser extent, van Middelkoop. Koenders, interested in Afghan development and governance issues, will be key to convincing Bos to give Labor/PvdA support in the Cabinet to any post-2010 engagement plan. Parties of the left -- D66, the Socialist Party (SP), and Greenleft -- will likely oppose any continued involvement. The conservative Freedom Party (PVV) and the VVD will need to be convinced that any decision is clearly in the best interest of the Dutch. Although the ruling coalition parties (CDA, PvdA and CU) control enough votes in parliament to approve any Cabinet action, Dutch political tradition requires more than a simple majority to approve such an important action. The government will need the support of additional parties. Comment and First Steps ----------------------- ¶10. (S) Comment: Embassy The Hague believes the Dutch will ultimately stay in Afghanistan for two primary reasons: to complete the mission and maintain a seat at the table as a ""responsible shareholder"" for international peace and security. It is paramount the Dutch view any post-2010 engagement as partnering toward a viable Afghanistan solution and not a continuation of a failing strategy (hence de Groot's desire for a ""post-ISAF Phase III"" plan). A strategy that provides credible steps towards a central government that is responsive to the citizenry and capable of providing security will provide the Dutch with political cover to make commitments post-2010. Any sense the government is a patsy of the U.S. or that Afghanistan is descending into chaos will not garner the necessary public or parliamentary support. ¶11. (S) Comment Cont,d: The Dutch see themselves as our partners in Afghanistan and not mere supporters of U.S. goals there. U.S. engagement, from working level contacts to parliamentary and public outreach and high level contacts, will be necessary to confirm to the Dutch they are a key partner with influence whose consultations are meaningful and have an impact. Our engagement must be discreet, sensitive and timely. During the run-up to the December 2007 decision to extend the Uruzgan deployment an extra two years, the Qto extend the Uruzgan deployment an extra two years, the Dutch did not want a heavy visible USG presence and privately urged the U.S. to ""trust us"" on getting the extension. The Dutch will want quiet but active consultations and collaboration as a partner with the U.S. We have suggested (reftel C) using important events for the NY400 celebration as a reason for high level visitors to come to the Netherlands in 2009, conduct public outreach and quietly engage Dutch officials and parliamentarians on Afghanistan. At the outset, there will be two critical efforts - ensuring PvdA support within the Cabinet for any follow-on mission and getting additional parties, support once a Cabinet plan is submitted to Parliament. End comment. ¶12. (S) Getting to Yes: Dutch leaders will appreciate an understanding of both their domestic politics and their international contributions. Guidance from Washington on the changing strategy in Afghanistan, including growing deployments and expectations for Allies, will be essential. Post has already convened an Afghanistan Working Group involving POL, DAO and PD to develop a game plan for engagement and monitor developments. Embassy The Hague will continue to analyze and report on political developments in the Netherlands and how those events affect prospects for the Dutch post-2010 development. We will look for opportunities for Washington leaders to engage Dutch decision-makers (e.g., having the USNATO ambassador as the guest of honor at Dutch-American Friendship Day in April; inviting General Petreaus to speak at the May 24 commemoration services at the Netherlands-U.S. cemetery at Margraten; having Special Representative Holbrooke visit Uruzgan and/or The Hague as he reviews U.S. strategy for Afghanistan; arranging an early meeting between Minister Koenders and the new USAID Administrator and senior Department officials on development issues). The upcoming meeting between the Secretary and FM Verhagen is an excellent opportunity to lay out what we want the Dutch to do post-2010 and how we can help get them to that decision. ¶13. (SBU) The following talking points will be a ""living document"" updated regularly for use with Dutch officials: - WE VALUE OUR PARTNERSHIP: We are proud to be partners with the Dutch in promoting a safe and secure Afghanistan and know that you have consistently punched above your weight in Afghanistan. (NOTE: The Dutch have been more involved in Afghanistan than many in NATO that have more capabilities. They were part of the initial ISAF forces and continue to contribute vitally important enablers. END NOTE.) - WE RECOGNIZE YOUR SACRIFICE: We are grateful for your work and recognize your sacrifices in extended command in the south and lead of Task Force Uruzgan. We know your leadership has stretched your military capacity. (NOTE: The Dutch made a difficult political decision to retain the lead in Task Force Uruzgan in 2007 and extended their commitment for two years as lead nation; Dutch Major General de Kruif is the Commander of Regional Command South. The Dutch have suffered 18 casualties in Uruzgan, including the son of Chief of Defense General van Uhm. It has been reported that as much as half of the military forces are either in Afghanistan, preparing to go to Afghanistan, or in a recovery mode from deployment at any one time. END NOTE.) - WE SHARE THE SAME GOALS FOR AFGHANISTAN: The President is committed to a 3D approach in Afghanistan. Your leadership in the use of development funds has been impressive in improving the lives of Afghan citizens. (NOTE: The Dutch have long been advocates of the 3D approach and strongly push the development aspect in their efforts in Afghanistan. Kathleen Ferrier, a skeptical CDA MP, actually used the three words of democracy, defense and development to describe her view of what is needed in Afghanistan. She and many in the Dutch arena feel they actually initiated the concept. We can use this language to build Dutch support. END NOTE.) - WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER ON THE CHALLENGES: As Vice President Biden said in his Wehrkunde speech in Munich, we are at a tenuous stage in Afghanistan, and we cannot afford Qare at a tenuous stage in Afghanistan, and we cannot afford to backslide. This makes every contribution from our Allies all the more important. Adding to the urgency of the situation are the upcoming Presidential elections in August; we must all do everything in our power to head off potential violence if the Taliban pull out all the stops to derail the process, as we expect them to do. With this in mind, we plan to significantly increase our efforts in Afghanistan and urge Allies to join us in meeting the need for additional diplomacy, development and defense assets. We are planning on an extensive infusion of our forces as reinforcements, not replacements for current forces from all troop contributing nations already in Afghanistan. (NOTE: Some in the Netherlands have begun to believe that with the significant additional U.S. forces there is no longer a need for their own forces in theater. END NOTE.) - WE BELIEVE DUTCH CONTRIBUTIONS ARE CRITICAL: Dutch experience in running successful PRTs and the irreplaceable local knowledge you have gained in Uruzgan are of crucial importance to ISAF. Additional U.S. capabilities in the region may offer some relief to strained elements of your military, but we all need to continue to work together in Afghanistan to give a coordinated 3D approach time to work. GALLAGHER