Cablegate: Pm Foreign Policy Speech Stresses Afghanization
DE RUEHLO #2575 3211718
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 171718Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3994
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 002575
C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDED NOFORN)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/17/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR MOPS AF PK NATO UK
SUBJECT: PM FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH STRESSES AFGHANIZATION
AND LEADING IN GLOBAL COOPERATION Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Greg Berry for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C/NF) Summary: In a November 16, speech, PM Gordon Brown reviewed UK foreign policy priorities -- but focused on Afghanistan. Emphasizing that Britain's national security was at stake, Brown argued that the "greater international good will never be subordinated to the mood of the passing moment." But it is Brown's offer to host a conference on Afghanistan early next year, and his statement that it should set a timetable for transferring districts starting in 2010, that has captured UK media attention; they interpret it as a timetable for UK withdrawal. A recent poll showing that 71 percent of the public would like to start pulling out of Afghanistan within a year. With elections due by June 2010 (and expected earlier, in May), Brown is under increasing pressure to defend continued UK involvement. End Summary.
2. (C/NF) In his annual foreign policy speech on November 16, PM Gordon Brown asserted Britain's key role in the world, "by leading in global co-operation." Brown's focus on the need to use UK influence to shape collective action was, in part, aimed at the opposition Conservatives, who have recently made a show of their Euroskepticism. But while Brown highlighted several key issues -- climate change, economic reform, non-proliferation -- Afghanistan/Pakistan was his main focus.
3. (C/NF) Brown emphasized that the war in Afghanistan was necessary to Britain's national security, citing the July 7, 2005 bombings and various other terrorist attempts in Britain and noting that "three quarters of the most serious plots the security services are now tracking in Britain have links to Pakistan." However, he argued that the crucial element is the "Afghanization" of the war. In an indirect reference to the recent shootings of UK soldiers by an Afghan recruit, Brown underscored that "we have not chosen this path of Afghanization because it is a safer or easier option, but because it is the right strategy." Brown noted that other members of the coalition had increased their contributions, and stated that he had urged Presient Karzai to take action against corruption.
4. (C/NF) However, UK media have focused on Brown's offer to host, early next year in London, a conference on international community support for Afghanistan. As noted ref B, FCO Director for South Asia and Afghanistan Karen Pierce previewed the offer in a meeting with POL MinCouns on November 16; we understand that FS Miliband also raised this with the Secretary. Brown sees the conference as a means "to chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished." He also suggested that the conference "identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control and if at all possible set a timetable for transferring districts starting in 2010." This has been interpreted, by UN media, as a call for a "withdrawal timetable."
5. (C/NF) COMMENT: British public support for UK involvement in Afghanistan has been trending downward as British casualties mount and elections approach. A recent poll suggested that 71 percent of the public would like to start pulling out of Afghanistan within a year. Perhaps to bolster his contention that talk of a timetable for drawing down is strategic, Brown pointed out that great progress has been made against Al-Qaeda, including the liquidating of top Al-Qaeda leaders, which has "depleted its reserve of experienced leaders and sapped its morale." But privately, British leaders acknowledge the tension between Brown's personal commitment to success in Afghanistan and falling public support. END COMMENT. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX