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Cablegate: Finnish Commitment to Afghanistan Steady But

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHE #0378/01 2881311
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151311Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5209
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0101
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 8680
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0980
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUFGNOA/USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUCJACC/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L HELSINKI 000378

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2019
TAGS: AF FI MOPS PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: FINNISH COMMITMENT TO AFGHANISTAN STEADY BUT
ELECTION SURGE COMING HOME

Classified By: Ambassador Bruce J. Oreck for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The commitment of Finnish forces to ISAF
continues to be a matter of public debate in Helsinki. All
political parties (with the exception of the opposition Left
Alliance) reiterated their support for Finland's current
policy regarding Afghanistan including maintaining its
participation in ISAF. The government's commitments were
affirmed by CHOD Puheloinen and MOD DG for Policy Jarvenpaa
in separate meetings with the Ambassador in the last week,
though each made clear that Finland's "election surge" of
forces would be withdrawn by October 28. While not
optimistic about the prospects of stabilizing Afghanistan,
around half of Finns polled continue to support Finland's
current level of involvement there with around 35-40%
favoring a withdrawal. Recent casualties among Finnish
troops have not triggered a change in the public discussion.
END SUMMARY.

------------------------------------------
BROAD SUPPORT FOR GOF POLICY IN PARLIAMENT
------------------------------------------

2. (C) On October 1 Parliament held a general debate on
Afghanistan in which some 30 MPs participated. Finland's
presence there was supported across the spectrum of parties
with the exception of the Left Alliance, although support
within the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was weaker than in
the governing parties. SDP leader Jutta Urpilainen, however,
argued in favor of maintaining Finland's commitment there in
order to maintain a strong relationship with the U.S.
Foreign Minister Stubb emphasized that no new troops were
being asked to deploy and that no date of withdrawal should
be set in advance. Defense Minister Hakamies added that
there was no military solution and that political dialogue
was necessary. NOTE: Hakamies has continued to emphasize the
need for dialogue with what he terms "moderate Taliban" since
his return from the U.S. in September; he went so far as to
publicly suggest that the EU nominate Green Party MP Pekka
Haavisto as a mediator to conduct such a dialogue. Embassy
sources indicate that this idea has not been discussed inside
the GOF and we do not believe that it represents government
policy. END NOTE. The idea of increasing Finland's troop
presence and changing the mission to one allowing offensive
action was debated but rejected by most participants. The
idea of maintaining or increasing Finland's focus on
development and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan in the long
term drew broad support. This debate took place just before
four Finnish soldiers serving in ISAF were injured by a
roadside bomb, two of them seriously enough to be evacuated
back to Helsinki. Reaction to the casualties in the media
has been very muted and the topic does not appear to have
affected the public debate on the issue.

--------------------------------------------- -
ELECTION SUPPORT FORCES WITHDRAWING OCTOBER 28
--------------------------------------------- -
3. (C) In a private meeting with the Ambassador on October 8,
MOD Director General for Policy Dr. Pauli Jarvenpaa indicated
a decision would be taken by the Finnish government to
redeploy Finland's Election Support Force (ESF) troops on
schedule in late October. He believed this would occur
regardless of whether questions over the validity of the
election were resolved or not. In a meeting with the
Ambassador on October 13, GEN Ari Puheloinen, the FDF Chief
of Defence confirmed that the ESF would be redeployed as
planned on 28 October. GEN Puheloinen cited several reasons
for this redeployment. FDF personnel deployed to support
crisis management operations must volunteer and are given a
specific time by contract for their deployment. These
contracts for ESF personnel are complete at the end of
October. There is no political will (and probably no legal
standing) to involuntarily extend members of the ESF, and
indications are that a majority of ESF members would not
volunteer to extend their contract. The lead forces in the
Finnish area of operation are the Swedes, and they are
preparing to conduct a planned rotation. During this
rotation, according to Puheloinen, there would not be
sufficient quarters to support the ESF if they stayed.
Lastly, available crisis management funds are limited and an
extension of the ESF for some indefinite period is not in the
budget. NOTE: DG Jarvenpaa specifically stated that funding
was not/not a reason for the redeployment. END NOTE.

---------------------------------------------

POLLING SHOWS FINNS STEADY BUT NOT OPTIMISTIC
---------------------------------------------

4. (U) According to a poll published by Helsingin Sanomat on
September 30, 49% of Finns favor Finland's participation in
crisis management operations in Afghanistan, 35% would
withdraw Finnish troops, and 16% have no opinion. 65%
believe Afghanistan is unlikely or highly unlikely to achieve
democracy or protection of human rights. An MTV3 poll on
September 24 reported that 66% of Finns do not believe that
ISAF will be able to stabilize Afghanistan while 22% are
confident that it could. 44% favored Finnish participation
at current troop levels and 40% favored a total withdrawal.
ORECK

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