Cablegate: Holbrooke & Fm Bildt On Afghan Elections, Civilian Coordination
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BRUSSELS 001639
FOR THE SECRETARY
NSC FOR GENERAL JONES
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/03/2024
TAGS: MARR MOPS EAID PINS PGOV PREL EUN SW PK IN
SUBJECT: HOLBROOKE & FM BILDT ON AFGHAN ELECTIONS, CIVILIAN COORDINATION
REF: A. USEU BRUSSELS 1638
B. USEU BRUSSELS 1637 BRUSSELS 00001639 001.5 OF 002
Classified By: POLITICAL MINISTER COUNSELOR CHRISTOPHER DAVIS FOR REASO N 1.4 B/D
1. (S) SUMMARY: Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke in a December 3 meeting in Brussels that he agreed that Afghan elections due to be held in May 2010 must be postponed. He advocated using the upcoming releases of OSCE, NDI and EU reports on the most recent elections -- all of which are expected to be highly critical -- to create an Afghan groundswell of sentiment to postpone the elections. Holbrooke noted that Turkey seems to be the only key partner opposed to an indefinite postponement of the elections; however, even the Turks acknowledge the impossibility of holding May elections. Bildt opposed dual-hatting the U.S. ambassador in Kabul as the coordinator of international civilian efforts. Conversely, he called for enhancing the roles of both the NATO Senior Civilian Representative and UNAMA. Bildt felt that either of the leading candidates to succeed Kai Eide could handle an enhanced coordination role, but underlined the importance of working with an Afghan partner, which he suggested should be Minister of Finance Ahady. END SUMMARY
2. (S/NF) During a December 3 bilateral meeting between Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Holbrooke told Bildt that the key accomplishment during the previous day's meeting of partner SRAPs (Ref A) had been agreement that 2010 elections in Afghanistan were impossible and that we should immediately begin work on replacing them with another democratic structure. Only Turkey supported 2010 elections, Holbrooke specified, although Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu had conceded (Ref B) that organizing elections by May could not be done. He noted that Davutoglu had rightfully stated that if the international community did not intend to assist in carrying out 2010 elections, it would need to have a plan.
3. (S) Bildt agreed that the issue would have to be carefully managed. It would be important "not to dictate to the Afghans." Instead, the forthcoming release of reports on the Afghan elections by NDI, the OSCE, and EU election observer missions could be used to create a broad understanding among Afghans that the country was not ready to carry out elections. He advocated consulting not only President Hamid Karzai, but also key opposition figures such as Qanooni, Rabbani and Abdullah. Bildt worried that Abdullah might object to the postponement, as he had been busily preparing to participate in the 2010 elections. Holbrooke reassured Bildt that most SRAPs felt Abdullah would support the decision as he had called for electoral reforms, including a new Independent Electoral Committee. The problem was more likely to be dealing with Karzai's reluctance to take responsibility for elections he had already committed to hold.
4. (S) Holbrooke noted that SRAPs had agreed that a careful dialogue with Karzai should be initiated as soon as possible by a small group consisting of U.S. Ambassador Eikenberry, COMISAF McChrystal and UNAMA's Kai Eide. Bildt proposed that EU Special Representative Ettore Sequi be included and `tlpoclusion that eld in May. Holbrookerse of action would leQwe need to make it clear that the internationQl community will not support elections withou4 reform.
5. (S/NF) Holbrooke continued by refrring to EU SR Sequi's assertion the previousday that Karzai will only postpone the eleQtions if he can publicly pin the blame on the international community. The feeling among the SRAPs was that the international community shold provide him with a BRUSSELS 00001639 002.4 OF 002 credible pretext for backtracking on his inauguration commitment to hold elections in May 2010, said Holbrooke. He noted that Davutoglu had recommended blaming the delay on security issues. Bildt responded positively that the international community could truthfully cite its need to "get our house in order" before committing to another round of expensive elections.
6. (C) FM Bildt indicated that he was hoping to use the final weeks of Sweden's EU Presidency to improve international coordination of the EU's efforts in Afghanistan. He bemoaned the existence of three separate chains of command for the EU Police Mission, European Commission delegation and Presidency representative. Bildt said he hoped the coming-into-force of the Lisbon Treaty on December 1 would make it possible finally to bring together the stove-piped strands of the EU's own presence in Afghanistan under a single umbrella.
7. (C/NF) In addition to consolidating EU efforts, Bildt felt that international coordination could be enhanced by strengthening UNAMA. He suggested that UNMIK's pillar structure in Kosovo had provided a good model for UN coordination of international efforts. Bildt disclosed that Kai Eide planned to leave his job before his contract expired in March 2010. In fact, he said, Eide had considered announcing his departure in December and leaving in March, but Bildt had persuaded him not to act until a successor was selected and available. He expressed confidence in the abilities of both leading candidates to succeed Kai Eide as UNAMA's head, Sweden's Stefan de Mistura and Jean-Marie Guehenno.
8. (C) Bildt volunteered that he felt the NATO Senior Civilian Representative also needed to raise its profile. The NATO SCR should take on new functions, he said, such as PRT coordination. Kai Eide was also an advocate for an increased NATO SCR role, he said.
9. (C) Bildt said the proposal for the U.S. ambassador in Kabul to be appointed as overall coordinator of the international civilian effort "would not work." Doing so would marginalize UNAMA, he asserted. Bildt advocated finding an Afghan partner for international coordination efforts, preferably Minister of Finance Ahady.
So-so Reaction to POTUS Speech
10. (C/NF) On the President's speech, Bildt complained it was overly focused on military strategy and was thin on the civilian strategy. He also described the speech as neglecting the regional dimension of the problem, which went beyond Pakistan.
EU HiRep Catherine Ashton
11. (C/NF) Bildt, who was joined in the meeting by Sweden's Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Anna-Karen Enestrom, noted that he knew and liked newly appointed EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. He described her as a "street fighter" with a disciplined mind for bureaucratic battles. While competent and intelligent, Bildt described her as having "no foreign affairs knowledge." Enestrom commented that Ashton had already made it known within the EU that she planned to focus on Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East. 12. (U) SRAP delegation did not review this cable. MURRAY .