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Cablegate: Argentina: Codel Sanchez Meeting with Minister of Defense

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2303/01 3401556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061556Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9853
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6717
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 6604
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1611
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC LIMA 2212
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0931
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002303

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MASS AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: CODEL SANCHEZ MEETING WITH MINISTER OF DEFENSE


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Representatives Loretta Sanchez and Roscoe
Bartlett, accompanied by Ambassador, met November 21 with Argentine
Minister of Defense Nilda Garre to discuss bilateral relations,
peacekeeping and regional security. Garre reviewed the military
organizational restructuring she had undertaken, focused on
"jointness," education, and the role of women in the military. She
described the positive security situation in the region, the
progress and challenges in standing up the combined
Argentine-Chilean peacekeeping battalion, and asked for continued
U.S. political and material assistance. She also explained the
political sensitivity for the Kirchner administration of sending
military personnel to training courses at WHINSEC. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Representatives Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Roscoe Bartlett
(R-MD), members of the House Armed Services Committee, accompanied
by Ambassador, Professional Staff Member Debra Wada and EmbOffs, met
November 21, with Minister of Defense Nilda Garre, her Chief of
Staff Raul Garre, Secretary for Military Matters Alfredo Forti,
Secretary for Planning and Budget Oscar Cuattromo, and Sub-Secretary

SIPDIS
for Military Technical Matters Esteban Montenegro.

REFORM OF ARGENTINA'S MILITARY
------------------------------

3. (SBU) Garre reviewed for the CODEL the Argentine military's
historical role in Argentine politics. The military dictatorship
and human rights abuses (1976-1983) and the disastrous invasion of
the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands (1982) are still fresh in the memory
of Argentines, she said. Garre explained that her priority was to
create a more professional military. She noted that the Kirchner
administration was the first to begin implementing the 1988 military
reorganization law, had passed a 2007 military intelligence law, and
drafted a new military justice code that is currently under
consideration in the legislature.

EDUCATION AND JOINTNESS AND WOMEN IN THE MILITARY
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (SBU) Garre said she placed a premium on reforming military
education. Military personnel, she stated, should first be good
citizens, secondly public servants, and finally professional
soldiers. The MOD was therefore reviewing and reforming the entire
educational system with a focus on human rights, respect for
civilian control and management.

5. (SBU) Changes in the education system reflect the MOD's emphasis
on "jointness," as stipulated in the 1988 military reform law. This
emphasis has placed the Joint Staff in operational command and
control over the separate services, and is pushing the process of
combining areas of commonality between the services in education,
training and budget determination and allocation.

6. (SBU) These are themes Garre emphasized with the Ambassador in
their meeting on November 13, when they reviewed bilateral
cooperation and the MOD's priorities focused on: strategic planning;
defense resource management; reform of the military educational
system; science and technology; and training and development of
civilian defense personnel. Garre noted in that meeting that her
staff was carefully reviewing the existing 10-year bilateral
agreement on the exchange of military education students, due to
expire at the end of the year. Secretary Forti, who also attended
the meeting, explained that they wanted the agreement to reflect the
new priorities of the MOD and to take into account the new
educational institutions, such as CAECOPAZ (peacekeeping training
center) and the Argentine military's Joint Staff College.

7. (SBU) Garre also mentioned the unique challenges of incorporating
women into the Argentine military. Sub-Secretary Oscar Cuattromo
noted that for the past eight months women had been working along
side men aboard some of the navy's vessels. Garre noted that they
had encountered fewer problems than initially expected, but also
noted that some of the deeper problems lay in the areas of
arrangements for married military couples, pregnancy, and other
family-related issues. Rep. Sanchez and Rep. Bartlett shared their
perspectives on the issue, recounted the ongoing U.S. experience,
and Rep. Sanchez offered to share some of the HASC's reports/studies
on the issue with the MOD. Garre said she would be very happy to
receive those reports.

8. (SBU) Finally, Garre stated that the future of the Argentine
military was looking brighter. She acknowledged that the military
had been largely ignored by previous administrations but that she
was expecting more budget support that should allow for some salary
increases and opportunities to provide some better equipment and
logistics.

PEACEKEEPING AND "SOUTHERN CROSS"
---------------------------------

9. (SBU) Garre also said the future was bright for Argentina's
continued support for peacekeeping, another priority for the MOD.
She noted that CAECOPAZ has just graduated its first international
class (students from nine Latin American countries) from its "train
the trainer" course. Garre said that in mid-December
representatives from Latin American and Caribbean countries with
peacekeeping training institutes would meet here to discuss an
alliance of those institutes in order to share experiences, best
practices and improve peacekeeping capabilities.

10. (SBU) Garre noted that the formation of the combined
Argentine-Chilean peacekeeping force "Southern Cross" (Cruz del Sur)
was going well. In earlier comments to the Ambassador, Garre had
explained that, in December 2005 when the two countries had signed
the agreement, the joint force had seemed very ambitious and that it
was an agreeable surprise how quickly the joint force and command
has advanced. With Representatives Sanchez and Bartlett, and in her
earlier meeting with the Ambassador, Garre asked for continued U.S.
support for "Southern Cross" - both logistically with training and
equipment, and politically with the UN when the two countries submit
the concept to the UN to include the combined force into the UN
Standby Arrangement System at the Rapid Deployment Level. She noted
that the joint force should be operational by mid-2008.

REGIONAL ISSUES
---------------

11. (SBU) In response to a question, Garre noted that relations with
Argentina's neighbors were extremely good and that Argentina and
Chile have discussed with other countries the possibility of joining
Southern Cross. The two countries, however, have decided to get the
force fully operational and incorporated into the UN system before
formally asking others to join. She noted that Brazil and Peru have
expressed interest in Southern Cross.

WHINSEC IS STILL A POLITICAL ISSUE
----------------------------------

12. (SBU) Rep. Sanchez is a member of the WHINSEC Board of Visitors,
and asked the Minister if Argentina was sending students to courses
at WHINSEC. Garre said the MOD and services were not sending
students there and that it would be politically difficult for the
Kirchner administration to do so, given the local sensitivities
surrounding the institution and Argentina's own history with
military human rights abuses. Rep. Sanchez noted that this is
unfortunate given the excellent education and training WHINSEC
provides in many of the Minister's priority areas. Rep. Sanchez
invited Garre to visit WHINSEC with her as a guide.

13. (U) Representative Sanchez has cleared this cable.

KELLY

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