Cablegate: (S/Nf) Afghanistan: Uk Will Say No to a Request

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P 241728Z NOV 09

S E C R E T LONDON 002639


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2019

REF: A. STATE 120807 B. LONDON 2346 Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Greg Berry for Reasons 1.4 b and d

1. (S/NF) Summary. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Cabinet Office officers told the Political Minister Counselor November 24 that the total number of UK troops in Afghanistan will soon total 9,500, as the UK will be plussing up its permanently deployed force by 1,200; this number consists of the 700 troops originally sent by the UK as an "uplift" for the electoral period who are now deployed on a "permanent" basis plus the deployment soon of 500 more troops. If asked by the U.S. to send more troops, the UK would be obliged to say "no," as HMG lacks the logistics capability and equipment to support the deployment of more troops, the interlocutors stressed. The FCO, Ministry of Defence (MOD), and Downing Street are all in agreement on this point, they stated. The UK will continue to urge allies to follow the UK's example and to increase their contributions to Afghanistan, they said. Prime Minister Brown's Foreign Policy Advisor Simon McDonald and senior MOD officials recently returned from a trip to six European capitals that aimed to drum up support from other allies. HMG appreciates U.S. support for the January 28 Afghanistan Conference in London and plans to publicly announce the conference soon, one interlocutor stated. HMG's goal is to be completely in synch with the U.S. when the President announces the roll out of our strategy in Afghanistan and is eager to avoid any public perception of a "disconnect" between U.S. and UK policy. End Summary. More British Troops?

"The Cupboard is Bare." --------------------------------------------- -

2. (S/NF) The Political Minister Counselor discussed additional contributions for Afghanistan with Philip Barton, Director, Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the Cabinet Office's Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat, November 24 (Ref A). Barton affirmed HMG's strong commitment to the success of the allied mission in Afghanistan. He confirmed that the number of UK troops in Afghanistan will soon total 9,500. Barton stated that the 700 troops originally sent by the UK as an "uplift" for the electoral period are now deployed on a "permanent" basis. The deployment of 500 more troops should be confirmed within a few days, possibly at about the same time President Obama announces his decision regarding Afghanistan, Barton stated.

3. (S/NF) Barton underscored that these decisions, already announced by Prime Minister Brown in October (Ref B), will increase the UK's troop numbers by 1,200: the 700 retained beyond the elections and the new 500. However, "we don't have the capability in terms of logistics or equipment" to support the deployment of additional troops. "The cupboard is bare," Barton emphasized. He stressed that it would not be helpful for the U.S. to ask the UK to send more troops, as doing so would put HMG "in the very difficult place" of having to say "no." He noted that if the UK said "no" to a request for additional troops, other allies could hide behind that refusal in justifying their decisions not to send more troops. A request from the U.S. for more British troops would also be unhelpful to HMG in terms of domestic political considerations, Barton said.

Cross Whitehall Concurrence ---------------------------

4. (S/NF) Barton acknowledged that HMG has in the past had internal disagreements about whether or not more British troops should deploy to Afghanistan. "Unlike in the past, we're all at one" that the UK cannot deploy more troops. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and 10 Downing Street concur on the conclusion that HMG cannot deploy more troops, Barton stated. "I've just come from a meeting with the CHOD (Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup) and we're lock square," Barton said.

5. (S/NF) HMG will continue its efforts to convince other allies to follow the UK's lead and increase their contributions in Afghanistan, Barton said. He noted that Prime Minister Brown's Foreign Policy Advisor Simon McDonald and senior MOD officials recently returned from a trip to six European capitals in which they attempted to drum up promises for increased contributions from other allies. The UK will deliver the same message in the NAC and "we're keen to work with you to get what we can from the others," Barton said. Barton confirmed that he will accompany McDonald to meetings in Washington this week.

6. (S/NF) In a separate meeting with the Political Minister Counselor, Karen Pierce, Director, South Asia and Afghanistan, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), offered the same message as Barton, namely that the UK was unable to send more troops to Afghanistan beyond the additional 1200 already pledged but would press other allies to do more. "When some allies do so little, to ask for more from us would be very difficult," Pierce stated. Pierce said she would share our points about the way forward in Afghanistan and the need for additional allied contributions with appropriate HMG interlocutors, including at the Department for International Development. Catherine Brooker, Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary Miliband, said she would share our points with the Foreign Secretary.

Afghanistan Conference in London --------------------------------

7. (S/NF) Pierce expressed appreciation for U.S. support for the January 28 Afghanistan Conference in London. She said that her office would coordinate HMG's organization of the conference. HMG aims to announce the conference soon, so that it can deliver invitations.

Comment -------

8. (S/NF) HMG wants to be completely in synch with the U.S. when the President announces the roll out of our strategy in Afghanistan. Brown's government is eager to avoid the inevitable loss of political capital that would result if the media and Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition pounce on an apparent disconnect between U.S. and UK views on the way forward in Afghanistan. Barton's insistence that the FCO, MOD and 10 Downing Street are in lock step is particularly telling given disagreements earlier this year, which spilled into the media, between the MOD (which urged the deployment of more troops) and 10 Downing Street. Another factor driving British thinking is increased irritation at some allies who, in the UK's view, are not pulling their weight in Afghanistan. Interlocutors most frequently cite Germany and France in this regard. End Comment. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX e

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