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Cablegate: Iraq Prt Team Leaders Conference: Transition in 2009 (Sbu)

DE RUEHGB #3636/01 3211306
P 161306Z NOV 08



E.O.12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: On October 14-15, 2008, Provincial
Reconstruction Team (PRT) Team Leaders convened in Baghdad for the
quarterly Team Leaders Conference. The theme of transition animated
this Team Leaders Conference. Presenters highlighted the need for
continuing State Department-Department of Defense (DOD) cooperation
as DoD moves from kinetic operations to civilian-led capacity
building. Ambassador Ryan Crocker opened by challenging team
leaders to actively engage with their Iraqi counterparts, while
remaining sensitive to the reality that Iraqis want to govern their
own country. How quickly we transition will depend on candid PRT
assessments of progress, he said. Multi National Forces-Iraq
Commanding General Ray Odierno highlighted the importance of
supporting Iraqi sovereignty, and now that the security situation
has improved, the military can shift its focus from kinetic
operations to capacity building. Building on the transition theme,
other presenters from 20 different offices and agencies, discussed
their plans for moving forward. All 31 PRTs and Regional Embassy
Offices (REOs) were represented, including the teams lead by the
British, Italians and the Koreans. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Ambassador Crocker said that the agreement is in the final
stages of negotiation, after the overarching framework was approved
several months ago. He emphasized that the importance of a good
SOFA agreement, and the impact it will have on all aspects of USG
operations in Iraq. He also told the team leaders to expect moments
of "high drama" as the final political decisions are made.

3. (SBU) Emphasizing that smooth elections were a critical element
of transition in Iraq and how they are conducted will determine
Iraq's democratic development; Ambassador Crocker encouraged the
team leaders to report any emerging threats to the electoral
process. He said that cooperation with the United Nations
Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is another vital part of
transition in Iraq, and represents a fundamental part of Iraq's
reorientation into the international community. He highlighted his
support for joint UNAMI-USG efforts in Iraq, especially as UNAMI
moves further out into the provinces.

4. (SBU) Regarding eventual PRT drawdown, Ambassador Crocker
encouraged the teams to think about conditions improving to the
point where the PRTs would not be needed, and said that as more
provinces move into Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC), civilian
presence on the teams should be more prominent. At the same time,
USG funds available for PRTs is starting to decrease, and he asked
teams to use funds effectively and transition some of the mature
programs to Iraqi funding. He praised quality and innovation as key
to the PRT efforts.

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MNF-I GENERAL ODIERNO: 2009 is the Year of Transition
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5. (SBU) Multinational Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) Commanding General Ray
Odierno stated that the coming year is vital in the campaign for a
secure, stable, and prosperous Iraq. Coalition Forces will steadily
reduce their overall visibility throughout the country as the
operating environment changes from security-led to governance-led.
The way ahead will be less military action and greater DoD-State
cooperation in Iraqi capacity-building. He emphasized the
importance of the military-PRT relationship as the military
transitions to a supporting role highlighting the increasingly
important civilian effort. He said that the PRT will emerge as the
"tip of the spear" as the overall visibility of the Coalition Forces
decreases. He urged communication, coordination, and partnership at
all levels.

6. (SBU) Like Ambassador Crocker, General Odierno cited elections
as a critical element of transition in Iraq. He emphasized that
they must be fair and free in reality and perception, and asserted
the importance of PRTs as the eyes and ears on the electoral process
and the transfer of power afterward.

7. (SBU) General Odierno noted the sustainability of Iraqi Security
Forces, delivery of essential services, and development of a
unified, Iraqi, political vision as challenges facing the country.
The PRT's role is to build provincial government capacity,
facilitate reconciliation by reducing sectarian and ethnic bias in
government, support provincial budget execution, and foster economic
development. This effort should support Iraqis as they exercise
their full sovereign authority. Thanking the teams for their hard
work and dedication, he pledged continued military support to the
PRT effort in Iraq.


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8. (SBU) OPA Director Phyllis Powers chaired a dialogue with the
team leaders, telling them about efforts to brief Government of Iraq
officials on PRT activities. She emphasized that PRTs will be
operating with less autonomy in the near future as the SOFA is
completed. She also stressed the importance of honest assessments
from PRT leaders, urging team leaders to report "how it really is,"
even if it is negative change. This information is essential to
future transition planning. She urged coordination and cooperation
at all levels, and pledged to continue to provide PRTs the tools
they needed to accomplish their goals.

9. (SBU) The road ahead for USAID will be characterized by leaner
programs, noted Iraq's USAID Mission Director, Chris Crowley. The
resources available to USAID have been cut almost in half. The
Local Governance Program (LGP) II program is winding down and will
be complete by the end of 2008. The LGP III program is funded at a
third of LGP II funding; LGP III will therefore only be offered to 7
or 8 PRTs. LGP III program managers must coordinate closely with
the PRTs to ensure consistency in the training and advice provided.
USAID economic development programs will still fund lending projects
to small and micro enterprises, primarily through the Tijara
program. USAID will have a presence in Iraq for quite some time
which necessitates close cooperation with GOI entities. The next
generation of USAID projects will reinforce strong linkages between
local and provincial officials and empower communities to better
articulate their needs.

10. (SBU) Multinational Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) Deputy Commanding General
Major General Paul Lefebvre offered one certainty: Iraq's future
will be less military action and greater DoD-State cooperation in
the area of capacity-building. The operating environment currently
presents more questions than answers regarding the SOFA, provincial
elections, and the availability of USG funding. The goal is to
increase civil capacity to maintain security and enhance stability
conditions, and the importance of maintaining unity of effort and

11. (SBU) Speaking about Iraq's political climate, Ambassador Robert
Ford, Embassy Baghdad's Political Counselor, described shifts in
Iraqi political alliances and the fragmentation of political
movements within traditional Sunni and Shi sectarian groups.
Ambassador Marc Wall, the Coordinator for Economic Transition in
Iraq (CETI), highlighted provincial budget execution in promoting
the de-centralization of political power in Iraq.

12. (U) OPA's lead on Quick Response Fund (QRF) program officer
briefed the team leaders on overall funding and spending figures for
the program, and the guidelines for spending the funds. He also
discussed the new micro grant program that will allow up to $25,000
in grants as another funding option for the PRTs.

13. (SBU) The Iraq Transition Assistance Office provided an update
on the Provincial Reconstruction and Development Committees (PRDC)
funding program, which supports priority projects identified by
Iraqi leaders and coalition forces. He explained the funding
guidelines for PRDC programs provided through the FY 2008
Supplemental Budget, and discussed the new five million dollar PRT
Technical Services and Feasibility Program that will compliment
Iraqi efforts to expedite Provincial Council projects and other
local initiatives aimed at stimulating development and commerce.

14. (U) Richard Manlove, Acting Chief of Staff for the United
Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) gave an overview of
UNAMI's plans and challenges heading into 2009. UNAMI's work is
still colored by the 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in
Baghdad, which set the tone for the level of risk that UNAMI is
willing to take. Their priorities for 2009 will be election affairs
and the problem of disputed internal boundaries in Iraq. UNAMI's
footprint in Iraq will increase from 148 to 155 in 2009, and will
embed UNAMI officials into selected PRTs by the end of the year.
UNAMI depends heavily on security protection from MNF-I and if both
coalition forces and the PRTs drawdown, UNAMI's scope of work will
be severely affected. The SOFA agreement will be critical to
UNAMI's continuing operations, as will coordination with the PRTs..

15. (U) Other presentations focused on OPA assessments and planning,
budget execution, and upcoming elections.


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