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Cablegate: Afghanistan: Hmg Supports Elections As Scheduled; Unlikely to Increase Troop Numbers Above Current Deployment

VZCZCXRO1068
OO RUEHPW
DE RUEHLO #2655/01 2960730
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 220730Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0156
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 002655

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/A; EUR/WE E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2018 TAGS: PREL MARR AF UK

SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN: HMG SUPPORTS ELECTIONS AS SCHEDULED; UNLIKELY TO INCREASE TROOP NUMBERS ABOVE CURRENT DEPLOYMENT

Classified By: Political Counselor Richard M. Mills, Jr. for reasons

1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. SCA DAS Pat Moon and INL PDAS Bill McGlynn exchanged views on the way ahead in Afghanistan with FCO South Asia Director Adam Thomson and Afghanistan Team Leader Matthew Lodge, as well as MOD Joint Commitments Policy Director Jeff Garrett and Director-Political Peter Watkins. Moon briefed his interlocutors on the outline of U.S. interagency discussions that will lead to short and long-term policy recommendations on Afghanistan. He said that the U.S. is encouraged that UNSG Special Representative Eide has built a stronger UNAMA, and Lodge promised that the UK would consult closely with Eide to ensure he has the resources required to accomplish his mission. Both Lodge and Garrett underlined that while UK forces were receiving more and improved equipment, it was unlikely HMG would increase its current approximately 8,000 troop deployment. Watkins observed that Afghan security forces are proving their battle-worthiness, and local populations in Helmand seem more reassured by the ANA presence and by President Karzai's promises to deploy even more troops to the province. He was also pleased by the work of the Helmand PRT, noting that there were 80 civilians starting to deliver effects, whose progress should be measured this time next year. The UK shares U.S. concerns that despite PM Brown's recent warning's not to do so, President Karzai was looking to replace Helmand governor Mangal with his predecessor, the highly-corrupt Sher Mohammad Akhundzada (SMA). The UK welcomed the recent NATO decision to allow an ISAF role in CN on the interdiction side, and hoped there was now enough political cover to "interpret the mandate broadly." Thomson underlined the UK view that elections must happen as scheduled. End Summary. U.S. Policy Review ------------------

2. (C) At the request of both his FCO and MOD interlocutors, Moon covered in general the U.S. interagency Afghanistan policy review discussions, which will serve as a roadmap and transition guide for the remainder of this and the beginning of the next Administration. Support for UNAMA -----------------

3. (C) Moon noted that the U.S. believes UNAMA under UNSG Special Representative Kai Eide has done a good job despite limited support from New York. Eide's comments that ISAF and UNAMA would not operate from a joint campaign plan were disappointing, but the U.S. is encouraged by field level coordination and the fact that Eide has built a stronger UNAMA, with a view to extending its influence into the provinces. The U.S. will participate in a "small group" with ISAF and major international players to provide additional leadership and guidance. Lodge promised that the UK would consult closely with Eide to ensure he has the resources required to accomplish his mission. Support for ANA ---------------

4. (C) Moon said that the U.S. was looking to use upcoming multilateral meetings to encourage increased resource support for enlarging the ANA - his UK interlocutors assured him that the UK would join in that effort. That said, both Lodge and Garrett underlined that while UK forces were receiving more and improved equipment, it was unlikely HMG would increase its current approximately 8,000 troop deployment. Lodge was hopeful that as Afghan elections approached, the burden would be more broadly shared and other nations would deploy forces. The UK intends to work with its European partners on just that issue over the next few months.

5. (C) Watkins noted that it had been a "tough summer" in Helmand, with a significant increase in the level of violence. While the security zones had expanded to five, the security forces in each were stretched thin and attempts to join up the population centers were proving difficult, given the Taliban's new-found "resilience." That said, Afghan security forces are proving their battle-worthiness, and local populations seem more reassured by the ANA presence and by President Karzai's promises to deploy even more troops to the province. CivMil ------

6. (C) Watkins was also pleased at the progress of the Helmand PRT, noting that there were 80 civilians starting to LONDON 00002655 002 OF 002 deliver effects, whose progress should be measured this time next year. Garrett explained that each district center has a stabilization advisor and a civilian/military mix which varied depending on the security situation. These units were implementing stabilization and capacity building programs. Lodge noted that given limited UK resources, HMG was determined to "embrace" increased U.S. involvement in the south.

7. (C) Watkins worried that Karzai was "skeptical and paranoid" of the British and that despite PM Brown's recent warning's not to do so, was looking to replace Helmand governor Mangal with his predecessor, the highly-corrupt Sher Mohammad Akhundzada (SMA). Garrett lamented the fact that while Mangal was a good governor, he lacked the political or tribal influence to protect his own position, so SMA has the advantage. CN --

8. (C) Garrett noted that Defense Secretary Hutton was pleased with the recent NATO decision to allow an ISAF role in CN on the interdiction side, and hoped there was now enough political cover to "interpret the mandate broadly." It was now time to look at what ISAF could do more proactively in this regard, and to integrate CN into overall operational planning within the constricts of resource availability - more ANA involvement will be necessary to give this effort sufficient strength. Elections ---------

9. (C) Thomson said he wanted to clear up any recent misunderstandings between HMG and the USG on elections. The UK's view is that elections must happen as scheduled, Thomson emphasized. Any ruminations about a Loya Jirga to discuss constitutional issues was in the context of an additional tool to make elections run more smoothly - not to replace them. When challenged by Moon, Thomson clarified that there would need to be broad agreement on the outcome of any Loya Jirga before calling for such a meeting. The UK will, in coordination with Coalition partners, examine what is required for the elections to take place - simple security is not enough - we must be sure of a sufficient Pashtun turnout to give the elections legitimacy. This will require a "vision" for Afghanistan which will encourage Pashtuns to risk voting in the face of Taliban intimidation. Thomson expressed his discomfort that many in the Afghan political and economic elite think credible elections are not possible.

10. (C) Moon expressed appreciation for Thomson's reassurances, and underlined Washington's strong support for elections. He emphasized that the U.S. will continue to press President Karzai to address election security and registration issues. Moon predicted that most Pashtuns would accept the election result if a Pashtun was elected - if not, the result could be heavily contested.

11. (U) DAS Moon has cleared this cable. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX LEBARON

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