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Cablegate: Isaf: Next Steps for Italy's 1,000 Troop Commitment

VZCZCXRO3901
PP RUEHSL
DE RUEHRO #1363/01 3451639
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111639Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2999
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0563
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 0977
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN PRIORITY 0359
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE PRIORITY 3921
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES PRIORITY 4142
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3065
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ROME 001363

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS NATO IT AF
SUBJECT: ISAF: NEXT STEPS FOR ITALY'S 1,000 TROOP COMMITMENT

REF: A. ROME DAILY REPORT 12/4/09
B. II...

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Dibble for Reasons 1.4
(B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary. The Italian government has started the
Parliamentary approval process for its increased ISAF
commitments. On December 10, FM Frattini and MOD La Russa
briefed Parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committees
on the GOI's plans for a 1,000-troop surge in ISAF over the
next ten months. The Ministers asked Parliament to authorize
an average troop level of 3,700 in the second half of 2010
and La Russa pledged that the Italian contingent would not
exceed 4,000 troops and Carabinieri. The Defense Minister
also announced plans to send at least 3 more attack
helicopters, 3 transport helicopters and 3 additional C-27J
transport aircraft to support the ISAF mission. Senate
President Schifani told the Ambassador on December 9 that he
did not anticipate problems in Parliament, but that Italy may
have to make small adjustments to its troop levels in Lebanon
and Kosovo to accommodate the increase. Schifani, a
Berlusconi loyalist, told the Ambassador that the Prime
Minister had responded immediately to President Obama's
request for more troops because Berlusconi viscerally
believes in the importance of the transatlantic bond and sees
it as transcending personalities and politics. La Russa
stressed to parliamentarians the critical role that phone
calls from President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Secretary
Gates played in shaping Italy's response. We are
aggressively reaching out to Parliamentarians and key
thinkers to express our thanks and encourage swift
Parliamentary action. Continued Washington outreach and
engagement with Prime Minister Berlusconi and top Italian
officials in the next two months are critical to bringing the
GOI's major recommitment to fruition in the context of
Italy's increasingly agitated political scene. End Summary.

Gradual Increase to 3,700, Not To Exceed 4,000
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) A week after the Cabinet's approval and the Brussels
pledge of an additional 1,000 troops for Afghanistan (Ref A),
FM Frattini and MOD La Russa briefed a joint session of the
Chamber and Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees on
December 10 on the GOI's plan for Afghanistan. Frattini said
that President Obama's West Point speech set out a clear
18-month time frame for the surge and helped shape the
Italian decision: ""The beginning of international military
disengagement from Afghanistan will begin in July 2011,"" he
said. ""The decision is made. We will have to decide how to
implement it, not whether to implement it. It is a strategy
with a clear road map, a time frame, and objectives that must
be achieved within that time frame."" He backed President
Karzai's goals to have the Afghan Security Forces take over
security within five years, to fight corruption, and to
pursue reconciliation with insurgents prepared to accept the
Constitution. Italy is in Afghanistan, he said, to guarantee
its own national security because ""jihadist infiltrations
that we see in Europe and in Italy originate"" in the boundary
areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

3. (SBU) La Russa told the committee that NATO SYG Rasmussen
had asked PM Berlusconi for 1,600 troops, and that the GOI
had decided on the 1,000 figure after receiving telephone
calls from President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Secretary
Gates. He said the GOI will seek Parliamentary authorization
for an increase in the average troop level from 2,795 (the
currently authorized annual baseline) to an average of 3,300
in the first half of 2010 and 3,700 in the second half.
Total troop levels will not exceed 4,000 in 2010, including
the 200 Carabinieri police trainers pledged so far, of which
60 are on the ground (in addition to 20 assigned to EUPOL).
(Note: 60 of these trainers will be formed into 3 POMLTs in
RC-West.) La Russa also announced plans to send 3 additional
combat helicopters to supplement the 6 already there, 3
transport and medevac helicopters to the 7 currently there,
and 3 C-27J air transports to the C130J already there. Italy
will also send improved Armored Personnel Carriers to RC-West
and add a Role 2 field hospital for Baghdis province. Four
AMX fighter aircraft have replaced the two Tornados deployed
to RC-West for reconnaissance missions. La Russa added that
further air and mechanized assets may be necessary to support
the creation of a fourth Italian ""battle group"" in RC-West.

Offset By Troop Savings in Kosovo and Lebanon
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) La Russa said reductions in Kosovo and Lebanon will
help compensate for the surge. He projected that 1,300 of
the 1,900 Italian troops in KFOR will withdraw by October
2010, and the GOI plans to draw down 200 troops from UNIFIL
when General Graziano turns over command to the Spanish in
February 2010; ""however, I hope that more countries will
become involved in Lebanon so that we may reduce our presence
further, while still keeping as our priority the level of
quality of our contingent.""

5. (C) Frattini and La Russa did not discuss funding for the
troop increase, although recent press articles on the draft
budget law have suggested that the GOI may tap into
additional monies expected from the fiscal amnesty law and
from excess funds in the pension reserve system. Although
Italian military planners have not yet fully developed a
detailed deployment scenario, our assessment is that the
Italian armed forces have the capacity to deploy the proposed
troops without serious budgetary or structural difficulties
(Ref B).

6. (SBU) The opposition Democratic Party (PD) remains
supportive of the overall strategy, although critical of the
government's rollout. PD Foreign Affairs spokesman Piero
Fassino said that the GOI should have informed Parliament
before making the December 3 announcement, criticized its
willingness to declare a withdrawal date before the start of
the new ""pacification process,"" and urged the government to
provide further details on its plans to reduce troops in
Kosovo and Lebanon.

Schifani: Berlusconi Did Not Hesitate to Say Yes to Obama
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) Kicking off our outreach strategy to Parliament, the
Ambassador thanked Senate President Schifani on December 9
for Italy's contribution and expressed hope that the proposal
would move quickly through Parliament. Schifani, a
Berlusconi loyalist, was pleased that the Italian
announcement appears to have encouraged other ISAF members to
contribute more. He did not anticipate problems in
Parliament, where the GOI enjoys a comfortable majority, but
said that Italy may have to adjust slightly its troop levels
in Lebanon and Kosovo to accommodate the surge. He noted
that on December 2, Senators from the Northern League,
Berlusconi's junior coalition partner which has criticized
the Afghan mission in the past, voted in favor of the latest
decree authorizing Italian military missions abroad until the
end of 2009. Schifani told the Ambassador that the Prime
Minister did not hesitate to respond positively to President
Obama's request for more troops because the transatlantic
bond is a key element of his world view that transcends
parties, individuals and institutions.

Comment: Berlusconi Will Need USG Political Top-Cover in the
Months Ahead
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - -

8. (C) Comment: Although Berlusconi enjoys a comfortable
parliamentary majority, his decision to announce the
contribution before consulting with Parliament leaves him
exposed to criticism both from within the governing coalition
and from the Center Left opposition. In addition, the fact
that Italy made the largest publicly announced ISAF troop
contribution -- and the absence of any firm troop commitment
by Paris or Berlin -- may prompt criticism that Berlusconi
overcommitted Italy during a time of economic crisis while
France, Germany and others held back. Faced with a growing
list of political troubles -- ongoing legal battles, his
growing open rivalry with Chamber of Deputies President Fini,
and uncertainty over the future of the Center Right coalition
-- Berlusconi can ill-afford to have his Afghan commitment
turned against him. We urge that Washington offer continued
and regular high level contact, particularly with Berlusconi,
Frattini and La Russa, to ensure that Italy's major
recommitment to the ISAF mission comes to speedy and
successful fruition. End Comment.
THORNE
"

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