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Cablegate: Afghanistan: Finland Topping Up Omlt, Eupol,

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHE #0455/01 3381455
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041455Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5306
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HELSINKI 000455

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AF FI MOPS PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN: FINLAND TOPPING UP OMLT, EUPOL,
ANATF, BUT NOT CONSIDERING UPPING ITS COMMITMENTS

REF: A. HELSINKI 447
B. HELSINKI 441

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: President Obama's December 1 speech and the
request for more support in Afghanistan from NATO Secretary
General Rasmussen have triggered an extensive public
discussion in Finland's political and media circles. There
is a broad consensus behind the current level of commitment
of resources and on the goal of helping Afghanistan's
security forces take responsibility for their own country,
but no indications that Finland is yet ready to make any
major increase in troop or civilian commitments. The GOF is
working to fill out its OMLT and EUPOL contingents to levels
already set in the summer and is pointing to its doubling of
support to the ANA trust fund, all of which it hopes are seen
as indications that it is doing its part. END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------------------
PUBLIC COMMENTS FOCUS ON INCREASED TRAINING
-------------------------------------------

2. (U) Since the POTUS December 1 Afghanistan speech, the
debate on whether Finland can provide additional support to
Afghanistan has begun in earnest. Speaking to national
broadcaster YLE on December 2, Foreign Minister Stubb
suggested that Finland might be able to send about 15
additional trainers, though he pointed out the difficulties
in recruiting them (Note: Finland has not yet filled some 15
of its OMLT positions, and MFA officials have previously
mentioned the possibility of raising the number of Finns in
EUPOL from 24 to 30. End Note). Also speaking to YLE on
December 3, Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Chair
Pertti Salolainen (NCP) echoed both the idea of sending
additional trainers (police and/or military) and the
difficulties in recruiting them. When asked whether there
should be a date for Finnish troops to start coming home
since the U.S. was going to start withdrawing in July 2011,
Salolainen explained that President Obama probably was
influenced by the U.S. political calendar in setting this
date and that he did not see a need for a specific date for a
Finnish withdrawal.

------------------------------------
NO SURPRISES IN PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE
------------------------------------

3. (SBU) On December 3 Parliament held a hastily scheduled
plenary session focusing on Afghanistan (the last being only
two months ago). Some 36 MPs from all parties as well as the
Prime Minister, Foreign, Defense, Development, and
Immigration ministers took part. FM Stubb delivered the
government's opening statement in which he expressed
Finland's support for President Karzai's goal of taking
security responsibility within five years and echoed
President Obama's reminder that the threat of extremism in
Afghanistan and Pakistan is a threat to all nations. Stubb
went on to emphasize that strengthening both ISAF and
civilian crisis management was key, and that soldiers are
necessary to protect the civilian presence. Noting the
requests of the NATO Secretary General and the U.S. for
additional troops and trainers, Stubb closed by stating that
Finland had doubled its civilian support in the last year,
becoming the third largest participant in EUPOL with some 25
police trainers on the ground. Stubb declared that the GOF
would not make any new commitments at the ISAF foreign
ministerial he was attending the next day.

4. (SBU) Statements by governing party lawmakers were
strongly supportive of Finland's participation in both
military and civilian crisis management in Afghanistan, often
focusing on the importance of building a just society there
in which women's and children's rights were respected. Other
supporting voices emphasized that a greater effort in
training Afghan security forces would allow international
forces to hand over security responsibility, some referring
to the 2011 date mentioned in President Obama's speech.
Opposition SDP Leader Jutta Urpilainen noted that Finland's
policy was well-founded and should continue, especially with
regard to police training, and area in which Finland was
well-suited to provide help. Urpilainen and other opposition
MPs then took the opportunity to grill the government over
its recurring failure (in their view) to share information
both within the government, with the President, and with
parliament, about foreign and security policy. The PM
responded by denying that there was any systemic problem.
(NOTE: The government has provided ample ammunition for these
rhetorical attacks. Earlier this week the PM publicly stated
that he first heard about the NATO SYG request for more
support in the press while in October both the President and
Foreign Minister misstated the departure time frame for
Finnish Election Support Forces in Afghanistan. In September

the PM claimed that he heard about the Security Police (SUPO)
plan to post personnel abroad from the press. END NOTE.)

5. (SBU) Neither the government nor did any MPs suggest that
Finland provide additional soldiers to ISAF, with several
explicitly noting that no military solution was possible.
There was a general consensus that, to the extent possible,
Finland should put more emphasis on training Afghans.
Recruiting trainers, however, was recognized as increasingly
difficult due to the danger and lack of sufficient
compensation or career incentives. Defense Minister Hakamies
acknowledged the difficulty of recruiting trainers, but
indicated that currently Kosovo posed a more difficult
challenge in this regard than Afghanistan. Green Party MP
Pekka Haavisto focused on the weak credibility of the Karzai
government and called for a political process to include
dialogue with unspecified opponents of the government. NOTE:
In the past, including at the previous parliamentary plenary
on Afghanistan in October, there was substantially more
discussion of the need for political solutions including
negotiation or dialogue with "moderate Taliban." In sharp
contrast, Haavisto was the only speaker who addressed this
issue in the December 3 debate. END NOTE.

-------------------------------------------
GOF WORKING ON FILLING OMLT AND EUPOL SLOTS
-------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The ISAF team leader in MFA's Security Policy unit
told poloff December 4 that for now the most likely tangible
increases in support from the GOF would be completely filling
those positions in its OMLT and within EUPOL which were
currently vacant and increasing its contributions to the ANA
trust fund. While the GOF had approved providing an OMLT of
30 personnel, only eight are currently on the ground.
Finland will also try to increase its EUPOL complement from
24 to 30. Its contribution to the ANA trust fund will double
this year to 600,000 euros and the same amount is committed
for 2010.

--------------------------------------
EDITORIALS SKEPTICAL OF OBAMA STRATEGY
--------------------------------------

7. (U) Editorials in the aftermath of President Obama's
December 1 speech largely focused on Obama's "ownership" of
the war and the 2011 "deadline" for U.S. troops to begin
withdrawing. Tabloid Aamulehti (circ. 139,165) opined that
Afghanistan was "ever more clearly Obama's war, branding his
entire presidency" while citing favorably Senator McCain's
criticism of the 2011 pullout date. Daily Keskisuomalainen
(circ. 75,000) asserted that "it is increasingly apparent
that the fundamental problems, like the corruption of
Afghanistan's tribal- and clan-based government . . . will
not be solved by raising the number of troops." While
stating that Finland must stay in Afghanistan, daily Kaleva
(circ. 81,000) asserted that it was "not absolutely
necessary" to increase Finnish contributions, which in any
case would not be done "in accordance with a policy speech by
the president of the United States."

-------------------------------------------
MOST FINNS COMMITTED TO HELPING AFGHANISTAN
-------------------------------------------

8. (U) The annual (conducted since 1964) government-sponsored
Advisory Board for Defense Information (ABDI) poll of the
Finnish public regarding attitudes towards national defense
included a series of questions about Afghanistan for the
first time. Carried out by Gallup in September and October
2009 and published December 4, the poll indicates that while
67 percent of Finns do not want to "pull out" of Afghanistan,
over 70 percent felt that the international community had not
been successful in its objectives of improving the status of
women, combating terrorism, or creating democratic
governance. Finnish participation in providing assistance to
local government and in developing education and the local
economy garnered over 80 percent support, while participation
in activities to eliminate extremist groups using deadly
force was supported by only 20 percent with 72 percent
opposing such efforts.
ORECK

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