Cablegate: Brown's Promise to Send an Additional 500 Troops
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHLO #2346/01 2881640
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151640Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3738
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 002346
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2019
TAGS: AF PK UK PGOV PREL MARR MOPS MCAP PTER
SUBJECT: BROWN'S PROMISE TO SEND AN ADDITIONAL 500 TROOPS
TO AFGHANISTAN -- IF KEY CONDITIONS ARE MET
REF: A. 10/14/2009 LONDON DAILY REPORT (NOTAL) B. 10/15/209 LONDON DAILY REPORT (NOTAL) C. LONDON 2311
Classified By: Political Counselor Robin Quinville, for reasons 1.4 b and d
1. (C//NF) Summary. Prime Minister Brown announced October 14 that he is prepared to deploy an additional 500 troops to Afghanistan provided three key conditions are met: the Afghan security forces must do a better job, and be willing to fight alongside and be trained by British forces; British troops must have adequate equipment; and, other allies must bear a greater burden in Afghanistan. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) officials confirmed to Poloff that the 500 troops would not deploy to Afghanistan until the PM is satisfied that all three conditions have been met. They said these conditions should be met within a few months. The UK currently has about 9,000 troops in Afghanistan; the addition of 500 troops would bring British force levels in Afghanistan to approximately 9,500. In addition to the 500 new troops, the 700 British troops deployed to Afghanistan for the electoral period would remain there. Brown also announced that the regional battle group for southern Afghanistan will be redeployed to Helmand "with immediate effect."
2. (C//NF) Summary Continued. Brown's statement followed weeks of intense debate within HMG about the way forward in Afghanistan, including pressure from senior military officers to deploy additional forces to Afghanistan. Recent polling indicates that public support for Britain's combat mission in Afghanistan remains tepid. Although PM Brown's personal commitment to the Afghanistan mission is firm, he and other UK leaders continue to look to the United States for strategic leadership of the alliance in Afghanistan. (Ref C) Brown also discussed Pakistan in his statement, asserting that "while the sustained pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan combined with military action in Afghanistan is having a suppressive effect on al Qaeda, the main element of the threat to Britain still emanates from al Qaeda and Pakistan." British officials are "cautiously encouraged" by the government of Pakistan's recent steps to combat extremism. End Summary.
500 More Troops; "In Principle," with Conditions --------------------------------------------- ---
3. (C//NF) Prime Minister Brown launched the October 14 Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons with a somber tribute to British forces, reading out the names of the 37 servicemen who have died in Afghanistan since the last PM's Questions in July. The PM then read into the record a detailed statement describing HMG policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Note: The full text of PM Brown's statement to the House of Commons is available at www.number10.gov.uk; it is a "check against delivery" version that is very close to Brown's actual remarks. End Note.) Although the statement covered a broad range of topics, media and analysts have focused on Brown's announcement that he has decided to deploy 500 additional British troops to Afghanistan, supplementing the 9,000 UK troops presently there.
4. (U) PM Brown declared that: "I have agreed in principle a new force level subject to the following conditions. First, that a new Afghan government demonstrates its commitment to bring forward the Afghan troops to be trained and to fight alongside our forces - and I talked yesterday to President Karzai and Dr. Abdullah and received assurances that it is their determination that this will happen. Second, that as before every soldier and unit deployed to Afghanistan is fully equipped for the operations they are asked to undertake. Third, that our commitment is part of an agreed approach across the international coalition, with all countries bearing their fair share. The combination of force levels, equipment levels and tasks I am setting out today follows the clear military advice from the Chiefs of Staff and our commanders on the ground: on implementing our strategy; and on reducing the risk to our forces. And it is on this basis that I have agreed in principle to a new British force level of 9,500, which will be put into effect once these conditions are met." Brown stated to the Commons that he had consulted with President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and U.S. military commanders about the way forward in Afghanistan. He expressed support for "General McChrystal's ambition to accelerate the growth of the Afghan security forces."
5. (C//NF) Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) officials confirmed October 14 to Poloff and representatives from other Embassies whose nations LONDON 00002346 002 OF 003 have troops in Regional Command South that the deployment of 500 more British troops to Afghanistan is indeed contingent upon the three conditions outlined by PM Brown. In regard to the first condition, they stressed that it requires that the Afghan National Security Forces deploy more forces to the south to fight alongside, and be trained by, British forces. Jeff Garrett (Protect), Head of Afghanistan Policy at the Ministry of Defence's Operations Directorate, confirmed that the additional 500 troops would be "largely focused on partnering" with Afghan soldiers "to reflect General McChrystal's concept of embedded partnering." Garrett characterized the second condition as "an internal concern," for HMG. Matthew Lodge (Protect), head of the Afghanistan Group at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated to Poloff, that HMG does not want the mission in Afghanistan to become "an operation with only a small handful of ISAF partners." PM Brown's third condition requires "an agreed approach across the international coalition, with all countries bearing their fair share," Garrett stated. He also noted that the third condition is "not just about military contributions" by other allies, but could include other forms of support.
6. (C//NF) Both Garrett and Lodge confirmed that the PM would authorize the deployment of the 500 troops only when he is convinced that all three conditions have been met. They predicted this should occur "within the next few months ...(but there will be) no deployment until the Prime Minister is satisfied these conditions are met," Lodge stated. Lodge and Garrett pointed to Brown's statement that he had agreed "in principle" to a new British force level of 9,500 as confirmation that the 700 British troops sent to Afghanistan for the electoral period would remain there.
Why An Announcement Now? ------------------------
7. (C//NF) Ed Hadley (Protect), a Cabinet Office official who covers Afghanistan and Pakistan, told Poloff shortly before Brown's announcement that the decision followed a "long and tortuous" discussion among senior UK policy makers about the way forward in Afghanistan. Echoing Lodge's and Garrett's observations, he stressed that sending more troops is contingent upon "a high level of certainty" that the troops will be "adequately equipped" and "assuring adequate Afghan National Security Forces' support...something we have not always had in the past." Lodge offered several reasons for the timing of Brown's announcement. The return of Parliament after the summer recess provided an apt moment to explain HMG's Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, Lodge stated. Heavy British "casualties over the summer, media interest in Afghanistan, and growing public skepticism" about Britain's mission are factors that help explain the timing of Brown's announcement, Lodge continued. The primary reason for the PM's announcement, however, was because the Prime Minister wanted to offer a clear picture of HMG's policy, "provide additional resources, and reassure allies." Garrett added that with the "presidential electoral cycle coming to an end soon, now is a natural point to announce a new decision." Lodge expressed hope that the USG would decide soon on the future course of allied strategy in Afghanistan. He stressed that "now is a potentially decisive period" for allies to articulate and implement a winning Afghanistan strategy.
Military Reaction -----------------
8. (SBU) Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, and General Sir David Richards, head of the army, publicly endorsed Brown's promise of more troops. Stirrup stated October 14 that "this is what we've asked for, this is what we've been given." Richards stated that "I'm confident that the Prime Minister's conditions can be met." Some, however, criticized Brown for waiting too long to announce the plus up. Ex-Defence Secretary John Hutton, a longtime Labour Party MP, observed that "it would have been more helpful had we had the troops six months ago." MOD sources disputed Hutton's view, insisting that there were insufficient trained troops ready to deploy six months ago.
9. (C//NF) Brown affirmed in his statement to the Commons that "to meet the changing demands of the campaign, which require greater concentration of our forces in Central Helmand, we have confirmed the decision we made as a national security counsel in the summer: that one of the British units, the regional battle group for Southern Afghanistan, will be redeployed to Helmand with immediate effect." Garrett asserted that this redeployment was necessary to provide adequate numbers of British troops "for the holding task in Central Helmand." LONDON 00002346 003 OF 003
What About Pakistan? --------------------
10. (C//NF) Although the media has focused on Brown's promise of more troops, subject to conditions, the PM also discussed Britain's overall Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, including efforts to stabilize Pakistan and fight extremism there. He asserted that "while the sustained pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan combined with military action in Afghanistan is having a suppressive effect on al Qaeda, the main element of the threat to Britain still emanates from al Qaeda and Pakistan." Lodge told Poloff that "notwithstanding the problems of the last ten days, the government of Pakistan seems increasingly determined to take the fight to the insurgency in Waziristan" and to combat extremism generally. HMG is "cautiously encouraged" by Pakistan's recent efforts, he said.
Tepid Support for Combat Mission --------------------------------
11. (SBU) Brown's statement to the House of Commons coincided with the October 14 publication of the results of a Populus poll in The Times. According to the poll, 36 percent of British voters believe that British troops should be withdrawn immediately from Afghanistan, up from 29 percent in mid-September. The poll finds that four out of ten want British forces to quit Afghanistan, up from three out of ten over the past month. More than twice as many men as women (40 to 17 percent) believe that British troops should remain in Afghanistan until the "Taliban is defeated and the situation is stable, even it that takes many years." Sixty-four percent believe that HMG should send more troops to Afghanistan if the Army requests. Further details about the poll are available at www.timesonline.co.uk.
12. (C//NF) The three conditions laid out by PM Brown are not new. The PM, Defence Secretary Ainsworth and other HMG officials have consistently asserted that more British troops should not deploy to Afghanistan unless the Afghan security forces do a better job, unless British troops have adequate kit, and unless other allies bear a greater burden in Afghanistan. Brown's October 14 announcement followed weeks of intense debate within HMG about the way forward in Afghanistan. In the past several months, Brown has come under pressure from senior military officers to deploy additional forces to Afghanistan. PM Brown's personal commitment to the Afghanistan mission remains firm, but he, and other UK leaders, continue to look to the United States for strategic leadership of the alliance in Afghanistan. (Ref C) End Comment.) Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX