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Cablegate: Netherlands: Reactions to President's Afghanistan

VZCZCXRO6064
PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHTC #0726/01 3370805
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 030805Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3529
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 000726

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2019
TAGS: PREL NATO AF NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: REACTIONS TO PRESIDENT'S AFGHANISTAN
SPEECH; NEXT STEPS

REF: A. SECSTATE 122731
B. THE HAGUE 663

Cl...


237780,12/3/2009 8:05,09THEHAGUE726,"Embassy The
Hague",SECRET,09SECSTATE122731|09THEHAGUE663,"VZCZCXRO6064
PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHTC #0726/01 3370805
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 030805Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3529
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY","S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE
000726
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2019
TAGS: PREL NATO AF NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: REACTIONS TO PRESIDENT'S AFGHANISTAN
SPEECH; NEXT STEPS
REF: A. SECSTATE 122731
B. THE HAGUE 663
Classified By: Pol Deputy Eric G. Falls for reasons 1.4(b,d)
1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Dutch Defense Minister van Middelkoop and
the leader of the largest coalition party in parliament told
Ambassador they expected the Government to find a way to stay
in Afghanistan after 2010, albeit with a significantly
reduced presence. Press coverage of the President's address
was broad, with Cabinet members avoiding comment on the Dutch
deployment decision. The Ambassador will see other key
figures in the coming days. The PM's office recommends
against high-profile USG visits at this time, and Post
concurs. END SUMMARY.
2. (C/NF) DEFENSE MINISTER: Defense Minister Eimert Van
Middelkoop told Ambassador it was important that President
Obama used the term ""transition"" as a means of explaining the
way forward in Afghanistan, which sent the proper signal to
allies and Afghans. (NOTE: Van Middelkoop is a member of the
Christian Union. The Dutch governing coalition is made up of
the Christian Democrats, Labor, and the Christian Union. END
NOTE.) He said the new U.S. strategy was very much in
alignment with Dutch operational activity in Uruzgan.
Throughout the conversation, van Middelkoop referred to the
Cabinet discussion on Afghanistan as ""frustrating"" and
alluded to the intransigence of the Labor Party. He
indicated they would try to reframe the discussions on
transforming the Dutch PRT in Uruzgan as a multi-national
PRT, still led by the Dutch and with force protection. Asked
about a potential cabinet crisis on the Afghanistan question,
Van Middelkoop confirmed that the Labor Party has been very
slow to talk about any possibilities in Uruzgan and has not
left much room for alternatives. He said the Dutch will
not/not leave Afghanistan and will commit other resources to
the mission. The only open question really is the
continuation of a PRT in Uruzgan.
3. (C/NF) CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS FLOORLEADER: Pieter van Geel,
leader of the largest party in parliament, the Christian
Democrats (CDA), told Ambassador he was ""convinced"" the
government coalition would not leave Afghanistan, and would
stay ""somehow."" He assured the Ambassador that PM Balkenende
and FM Verhagen continue to support the mission, and that PM
Balkenende understands that the Dutch military needs a
political decision by Christmas for planning purposes. Van
Geel agreed that the Netherlands' leadership position in
Europe would be harmed if it failed to contribute to the NATO
effort. However, Van Geel said some coalition members in
parliament cling to ""irrational"" views, such as that the
government promised to end its Afghanistan deployment after
2010. Labor confronts the rational pressure from NGOs to
stay on and preserve the gains the Dutch had won in Uruzgan,
with the irrational commitment to get out of Uruzgan. Van
Geel had hoped that the election of President Obama and his
new approach in Afghanistan would sway Labor Party members,
but he has been disappointed. Unlike the Christian
Democrats, the Labor Party does not have a history of making
tough political decisions. Within Dutch society, despite
satisfaction with the government, there has been a growing a
fear of globalization, skepticism of development aid, and a
Qfear of globalization, skepticism of development aid, and a
tendency to &hide behind the dikes8 rather than fully
engage with the outside world. Asked about helpful efforts
to engage the Dutch, Van Geel said General Petraeus's full
praise for the Dutch efforts during his September visit was a
pleasant surprise -- parliamentarians had expected criticism.
He noted that opposition parties were important to
developing sufficient support for continued deployment, and
therefore Mark Rutte of the Liberal Party (VVD) and Alexander
Pechtold of D66 would be important contacts for the USG. The
CDA had found it helpful to bring former members of Dutch
government to parliament, where they offered less political
arguments for staying.
4. (SBU) PRESS COVERAGE: The president's speech -- including
positive reactions from key Dutch cabinet members -- garnered
widespread coverage throughout the country on December 2. It
was the lead story on the early morning TV and radio news
programs. Although too late to make the morning papers, it
was covered thoroughly on the websites of the major dailies,
including links to a video and the full text of the speech.
The headline of the nation's largest daily, ""De Telegraaf,""
read ""Heavy U.S. Pressure on Dutch Government: Stay in
THE HAGUE 00000726 002 OF 002
Uruzgan."" Various press outlets reported that Secretary
Clinton called Foreign Minister Verhagen (a CDA member) last
week, asking the Netherlands to ""reconsider"" its planned
troop withdrawal. They also reported that Undersecretary of
Defense Flournoy called Defense Minister Van Middelkoop with
the same request. Although he declined to speculate on the
Cabinet's upcoming decision, FM Verhagen commended the
president's speech, adding that ""If everyone were to say 'let
others take care of this,' Afghanistan would again be a free
haven for terrorists in no time. The Netherlands cannot just
pass the care for security in Afghanistan to others."" Van
Middelkoop similarly praised what he called the President's
""clear and recognizable vision"" for the mission in
Afghanistan, including the deadline of July 2011 to begin
withdrawing U.S. forces and his call on NATO allies to
provide more military troops. Like Verhagen, though, Van
Middelkoop stressed that the Dutch government has made no
decision about its military contributions after August 1,
2010. Labor Party spokesman Martijn van Dam said his party
will continue to oppose retaining troops in Uruzgan.
5. (S/NF) OTHER REACTIONS:
-- National Security Adviser Karel van Oosterom said that
negotiations in coalition are moving ""inch by inch"" and are
delicate. ""We are beginning to move Labor."" He advised
against high-profile U.S. engagement, asserting it would be
counterproductive at this time. Dutch NATO PermRep
Ambassador Majoor intends to speak soon with Ambassador
Daalder. On December 3, the Dutch Chief of Defense, General
Van Uhm, will speak with the CJCS Admiral Mullen and SACEUR
Admiral Stavridis.
-- The Slovak ambassador to the Netherlands had high praise
for the Dutch, telling the Dutch MOD political director
during a reception that her nations' troops would be eager to
expand their work with the Dutch in Uruzgan.
-- Dutch Ambassador to the United States Jones-Bos told U.S.
Ambassador she was willing to help as needed and that she was
""working"" Transportation Ministers Eurlings (CDA) and State
Secretary for European Affairs Timmermans (Labor) to
encourage coalition support for a longer-term Uruzgan
commitment.
6. (S/NF) NEXT STEPS: Post will place an op-ed by Ambassador
Daalder, and NATO SYG Rasmussen is also submitting a piece to
the Dutch press. Ambassador will see the following key
figures in the next few weeks:
-- Dec. 4 -- Development Minister Koenders, a key
decision-maker in the Labor Party
-- Dec. 7 -- FM Verhagen and the head of parliament's defense
committee, Anouchka van Miltenberg.
-- Dec. 14 -- Opposition party leader Mark Rutte, of the
Liberal Party, a possible proponent of the mission.
-- Dec. 15 -- Head of parliament's foreign affairs committee,
Henk Jan Ormel.
7. (S/NF) COMMENT: The PM's office recommends against
high-profile USG visits at this time, and Post concurs. Our
central goal is to convince the Netherlands to maintain after
2010 a PRT in Uruzgan with a few hundred troops for force
protection. We expect them to withdraw nearly 1500 troops in
2010 while continuing their support with F-16s, enablers, and
military and police training. The upcoming meeting with
Minister Koenders, just after the Dutch cabinet meets on
Friday, will be particularly informative. A U.S.
QFriday, will be particularly informative. A U.S.
announcement on who will take over Task Force Uruzgan will
help us engage the Dutch to sustain their efforts in
Afghanistan. END COMMENT.
LEVIN

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