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Cablegate: Netherlands/Afghanistan: Cabinet Deliberating -

VZCZCXRO2084
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHTC #0759/01 3551628
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 211628Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3596
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0435
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 THE HAGUE 000759

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV NATO AF NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: CABINET DELIBERATING -
LABOR PARTY LINES DRAWN

REF: THE HAGUE 726

Classified By: Charge...


241007,12/21/2009 16:28,09THEHAGUE759,"Embassy The
Hague",SECRET,09THEHAGUE726,"VZCZCXRO2084
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHTC #0759/01 3551628
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 211628Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3596
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0435
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY","S E C R E T SECTION 01
OF 03 THE HAGUE 000759
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV NATO AF NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/AFGHANISTAN: CABINET DELIBERATING -
LABOR PARTY LINES DRAWN
REF: THE HAGUE 726
Classified By: Charge Andrew C. Mann for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (S) SUMMARY: Dutch cabinet deliberations on Afghanistan
are stalled going into the holiday break, with no clear
indication when the impasse will be broken. Dutch post-2010
commitments to Afghanistan are being held hostage to the
Labor Party's (PvdA) uncompromising stance. Ambassador's
engagement with key leaders reveals few new assessments:
Dutch will likely stay in Afghanistan focusing on training,
enablers and development - outside of Uruzgan. END SUMMARY
CABINET MEETINGS SIGNAL NEW LOW IN DELIBERATIONS
--------------------------------------------- ---
2. (S) A sextet of ministers devoted their ""mini"" cabinet
meetings to Afghanistan December 09 and 15. The sextet
consists of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (Christian
Democrats (CDA)), Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen (CDA),
Finance Minister/Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos (Labor
Party (PvdA)), Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop
(Christian Unie (CU)), Development Cooperation Minister Bert
Koenders (PvdA), and Youth and Families Minister/Deputy Prime
Minister Andre Rouvoet (CU).
3. (S) The cabinet has not released any public information
following the meetings. Verhagen's private secretary told
the Embassy Balkenende, for the first time in a cabinet
meeting, made a ""heartfelt pitch"" for staying in Uruzgan on
December 9. The private secretary was not optimistic,
however, about the future of the Uruzgan mission because the
PvdA's political ""stranglehold"" was still in place. The
cabinet reviewed three options: a substantially reduced
Uruzgan presence, a training mission outside Uruzgan, and a
PRT outside Uruzgan. Chief of Defense Staff apparently
provided broad outlines of these scenarios at the December 15
meeting.
DUTCH KEY LEADER ASSESSMENTS
----------------------------
4. (S) PvdA - Bos has completely shunned the diplomatic
corps, relegating Afghanistan discussions to Koenders who has
categorically said the Dutch will not be in Uruzgan after
2010 except for development efforts. The Australian
Ambassador met with PvdA Foreign Affairs spokesperson Martijn
van Dam who was even more unyielding on the Uruzgan
departure. He stated that if Dutch security was needed in
Uruzgan for development efforts after 2010, then the Dutch
would simply stop those efforts as well. The PvdA defense
spokesperson opined that it would not be of any benefit for
U.S. leaders to engage either Bos or van Dam as they were not
""open-minded"" on Afghanistan. The PvdA is a party in
disarray; their December 12 party congress was very mixed.
Although there was no formal party statement made on
Afghanistan, Labor's position remained clear - it was
standing firm on withdrawal of all troops from Uruzgan in
2010. Bos has stated he wants a Cabinet decision around
January 8, before the Davids Commission issues it report
about the political support the Dutch Government gave the
U.S. decision to attack Iraq in 2003. Press commentary after
the party congress heavily criticized Labor for failing to
recognize: (1) any positive developments in Uruzgan over the
past two years; (2) the importance for the Dutch to support
the new NATO strategy and mission; and (3) the lives lost
Qthe new NATO strategy and mission; and (3) the lives lost
needlessly and effort wasted if the Dutch withdrew from
Uruzgan.
5. (S) CDA - Verhagen told the Ambassador December 11 he
thought the cabinet planned to have a decision prior to the
late January London Conference on Afghanistan. Verhagen did
not provide any new insight on what a final cabinet decision
will entail. He and CDA parliamentary floor leader Pieter
van Geel told the Ambassador the CDA MPs were not
enthusiastic about continuing in Uruzgan past 2010, but would
support any decision by the cabinet. Verhagen was not
optimistic about what the cabinet would ultimately decide but
he remained committed to serious Dutch involvement in
Afghanistan.
6. (S) CU - Van Middelkoop told the Ambassador that
discussions within the cabinet had been ""frustrating."" The
THE HAGUE 00000759 002 OF 003
military leadership do not want to leave Afghanistan and are
clearly concerned about being the ""odd man out"" within NATO
as many other countries are stepping up their commitments.
Van Middelkoop appears to support a serious commitment but
does not see a way around the impasse caused by the
intransigence of the PvdA.
7. (S) Opposition parties - Anouchka van Miltenburg (Liberal
Party - VVD), Chair of the Defense Committee, told the
Ambassador that the debate has everything to do with local
politics and almost nothing to do with statesmanship. She
said the PvdA will clearly put the government into a crisis
over the decision if pressed by CDA. She sees no way to
avoid that other than to compromise on a mission of some
nature outside of Uruzgan. VVD party leader Mark Rutte told
the Ambassador December 14 his party would support staying in
Uruzgan. He speculated that if the cabinet went to a crisis
over the issue the end result may be a coalition of VVD, CDA,
D-66 and CU resulting in more serious support of NATO-led
operations. Alexander Pechtold, D66 party leader, told
Ambassador December 16 his party would support retention of a
PRT and force protection in Uruzgan. He suggested a cabinet
crisis was not in any of the coalition partner's interest.
Pechtold believes the cabinet decision will be delayed as
long as possible to distance a decision from the recent
public comments to give them room to maneuver. In a meeting
with POL/ECON Counselor, Mariko Peters, the GreenLeft party
spokesperson for defense and foreign affairs (and former DCM
at the Dutch Embassy in Kabul), said her party would support
continued Dutch involvement in Afghanistan if it focused on
community policing, even if Dutch police trainers needed
Dutch troops to provide force protection to do their job.
Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party (PVV) told the Ambassador
December 10 the Labor Party had painted itself into a corner
with no way out. It was in a lose-lose situation. It would
probably agree to stay in Afghanistan someplace other than
Uruzgan, but that would not placate its followers. Wilders
supports the NATO mission in Afghanistan and praised the
President's new strategy, but his party wants all Dutch
troops to be withdrawn, ""it is time for others to step up and
assume their responsibilities. The Dutch have done enough.""
JOINT EFFORTS
-------------
8. (S) The results of the Ambassador's meetings with the
party leaders are the same as those undertaken by the
British, Australian and Danish Ambassadors. Comparing notes
reinforced the overwhelming support of the Prime Minister and
the Foreign Minister for a continued Uruzgan deployment, but
frustration as arguments fall on deaf ears in the PvdA. The
PvdA shows no realization of the impact a lack of significant
commitment by the Dutch will have on their international
stature. They also fail to grasp the overall costs and loss
of credibility from leaving a successful PRT and establishing
a completely new mission in a new location as Labor has
proposed as an alternative. The British embassy has
forwarded a suggestion that Foreign Secretary David Miliband,
a Labor leader, contact Bos on a party-to-party basis to
discuss Afghanistan. The Danish Ambassador believes that as
Qdiscuss Afghanistan. The Danish Ambassador believes that as
a small country with the same issues as the Dutch she can
argue a different angle that may be helpful in urging the
Dutch forward.
COMMENT
-------
9. (S) Karel van Oosterom, the Prime Minister's Foreign
Affairs and Defense Advisor (NSA equivalent), told visiting
EUR/WE Office Director Maureen Cormack the cabinet was faced
with finding consensus between the PvdA's absolute refusal to
countenance an additional military mission in Uruzgan and the
CDA's insistence that the Netherlands make a significant
contribution to NATO's mission in Afghanistan. He recognized
it was in no one's interest to bring the cabinet to crisis
because of the important work the cabinet still needed to do.
While mindful of Bos's Jan. 8 date, Verhagen's eye on the
London Conference and Parliament's desire for a decision by
March 1, van Oosterom said the Prime Minister will take
whatever time is necessary to achieve the best result. PvdA
Minister Koenders told the Australian Ambassador that Labor,
with Bos's blessing, could support continued development
THE HAGUE 00000759 003 OF 003
efforts through the PRT in Uruzgan (leaving 12 or so civilian
development officers behind in Tarin Kowt with force
protection provided by some other country), enablers, a force
of as many as 500 soldiers deployed elsewhere in Afghanistan,
and an increased financial contribution for development and
training efforts. Given Labor's refusal to consider other
options, that may be the best we can hope for. END COMMENT.
MANN

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