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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Afghanistan, Switzerland;Berlin

VZCZCXRO6403
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ
DE RUEHRL #1530/01 3371207
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031207Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5951
INFO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 1794
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0513
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1032
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 2537
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 1557
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 0722
RHMFIUU/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE//J5 DIRECTORATE (MC)//
RHMFISS/CDRUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE
RUKAAKC/UDITDUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 BERLIN 001530

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, EUR/PAPD, EUR/PPA, EUR/CE, INR/EUC, INR/P,
SECDEF FOR USDP/ISA/DSAA, DIA FOR DC-4A

VIENNA FOR CSBM, CSCE, PAA

"PERISHABLE INFORMATION -- DO NOT SERVICE"

SIPDIS

E.0. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO AF SZ
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: AFGHANISTAN, SWITZERLAND;BERLIN

1. Lead Stories Summary
2. (Afghanistan) Reaction to Obama Speech
3. (Switzerland) Ban on Minarets


1. Lead Stories Summary

ZDF-TV's and ARD-TV's primetime newscasts as well as most major
newspapers led with reports on President Obama's strategy for
Afghanistan. Berliner Zeitung led with a report saying that
contributions to the German health care system might have to be
increased next year. Several papers also carried prominent reports
on
carmaker Daimler's decision to move parts of its production to the
United States. Most major paper also carried front-page editorials
on
Afghanistan.

2. (Afghanistan) Reaction to Obama Speech

In a front-page editorial, Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/03) remarked:

"The endgame over Afghanistan has begun for America.... Given the
alternative of withdrawing from Afghanistan or increasing the
efforts
there, the President decided in favor of the second option - also
because he was able to link the increase in troop numbers with the
prospect of a withdrawal, which the American people desire as much
as
the Europeans. Apart from a few individual countries, the European

governments, however, want to make their decisions only after the
Afghanistan conference at the end of January whether they will live
up
to Obama or just jump on the bandwagon.... Let's hope the German
government does not just wait for London to begin thinking about its

strategy for Afghanistan. It has been clear for a long time that
Obama would make the decision he now made. It would be wrong and
a
huge blow to the transatlantic alliance, to abandon America in the
final battle over Afghanistan and Pakistan. The events in the
neighboring nuclear power of Afghanistan must be of greater concern
to
the West than the question of how many girl schools there are in
Kabul. The German politicians, however, seem to be completely
preoccupied with the renewal of the mandate for the troops and a
scandal over allegedly hiding information."

ARD-TV's Tagesthemen (12/02) aired the following commentary: "Barack

Obama's demand for more forces in Afghanistan reveals the full
dilemma
of Germany's policy towards Afghanistan: limit [the mission], stay
out, and downplay it. But now Obama has reminded NATO of its
responsibility. He has linked his political fate to the war, whose

outcome is still uncertain. What Germany now urgently needs is an
honest debate about the fact that the mission in Afghanistan is much

more than offering reconstruction aid. We will have to send more
forces to Afghanistan, even though no one wants to concede it right

now. Maybe there will be a growing challenge in the German
government
now to credibly represent its policy -- this is a war."

Deutschlandfunk radio (12/02) opined: "Even the opposition - apart
from the Left Party - is full of praise: right approach, smart

BERLIN 00001530 002 OF 006


strategy, the beginning of the end. The Chancellor speaks of a
powerful approach to bring the bad situation in Afghanistan to a
good
end. What is not being said in this country, particularly within
the
coalition government, is that this end and the withdrawal of
international troops from a mostly secure Afghanistan can only be
achieved with the great help by all NATO countries, including
Germany.
The German army is currently planning to increase the number of
troops
from currently 4,500 by two to three thousand soldiers. When if not

now would be the right time to advocate in favor of this in public?

Instead, there is hesitation and silence. When NATO meets next week

to discuss troop levels, it would be the right time for it, but
nothing will happen apart from the repetition of references to the
London conference on Afghanistan. Does anybody believe that there

will be new fact then?... There is not enough courage to hit the
nail
on its head. There will be another round of debates in spring."

In the view of Tagesspiegel (12/03), "those are called for now who
want the President to succeed. Obama is asking the allies for a
moderate increase in forces. This request must be fulfilled. This

will not be easy, including for the Germans. Angela Merkel says
that
the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan contributes to protecting
Germans from international terrorism. If she means what she says
she
must soon show her true colors."

The Washington D.C. correspondent of Der Spiegel, Gabor Steingart,
posted a remarkably nasty opinion peace on Spiegel online (12/02).

Under the title: Winner of the Nobel War Prize (meaning President
Obama, Steingart wrote: "Never before has a speech by President
Barack
Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America's new

strategy for Afghanistan. It seemed like a campaign speech combined

with Bush rhetoric -- and left both dreamers and realists feeling
distraught. ... It was the least truthful address that he has ever
held.
He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of
party
tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was

for exactly. An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into
Afghanistan -- and then they will march right back out again.
America
is going to war -- and from there it will continue ahead to peace.
It
was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate.

Regional daily KQlner Stadt-Anzeiger (12/03) argued: "U.S. President

Obama is modernizing [his strategy]. The international community
will
hardly be able to evade this strategy that has been sold as a
strategy
without alternative. If the Bundestag decides today on extending
the
ISAF mandate, then the government will keep this fact out of the

BERLIN 00001530 003 OF 006


debate, because it will know only early next year how many forces
NATO
will order. And then Merkel, like all others, will have to deliver

soldiers. Merkel and the military officials use all their energy to

avoid a discussion in public about the things the Bundeswehr is to
do
in the name of the people. In the three months since the Sept 4.
bombing in Kunduz, the Bundeswehr soldiers have learned one thing:

this is the third government that only hesitantly gives up its
maneuvering, and the majority of Germans now disapprove of the
Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan. But these soldiers are part of
the
entire society that must know and make up its mind on the sacrifices

and the means that must be used to end this war."

Regional daily Trierischer Volksfreund (12/03) had this to say: "The

core of things in Afghanistan is the establishment of stable
structures. They alone should determine the timing of the
withdrawal.
The military resolve must thus correspond to the resolve with
respect
to civilian reconstruction. Only if these questions have been
answered, Germany will - and must - also advocate an increase in
forces. But if not, then not."

Sueddeutsche Zeitung (12/03) opined: "Obama primarily spoke of the
circumstances that will turn the war into a success or a failure.
But
at the end, there was the insight that a politically and
ideologically
based resistance movement cannot be defeated militarily.
Afghanistan
can be pacified only politically. He made clear much more than his

European allies: I have understood, my voters no longer wants to be

concerned about Afghanistan, America only wants to get out of the
country. Obama's answer to the war-weary nation is the year 2011.
He
made clear that the first U.S. soldiers will withdraw then, for
reasons that are based on domestic U.S. policy, irrespective of what

is happening in the country. In the end, this promise to the U.S.
people is more important than an unstable situation in Afghanistan.

This is a very courageous policy which would be of no use if the
mood
turned against him."

Die Welt (12/03) opined in a front-page editorial that "in West
Point
it was not a strategist, but a politician, who delivered a speech.

Barack Obama's announcement...should do justice to all sides
involved.
But such calculations hardly ever come true. It is right to make
clear when the mission will end. But what effect will such a date
have on the Afghans who reject the Taliban and who have considered
themselves being protected by international forces? And what effect

will it have on the allies from whom Obama rightfully demands more
forces? It would have been much more convincing to orient [the
strategy] to criteria such as the establishment of Afghan forces and


BERLIN 00001530 004 OF 006


reforms in Kabul. However, Obama's 'Planistan' is much more
convincing with respect to bidding farewell to ambitious goals. At
issue is not the establishment of a 'model democracy,' but a minimum

of stability and the elimination of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Barack Obama is right: Afghanistan is not lost but it
would
be ominous to jump to conclusions and to declare victory in order to

withdraw. For the U.S. and for the allies, there is no alternative

but to enforce troops and increase efforts.

Handelsblatt (12/03) is of the opinion that, "a question of loyalty

will come for the allies if [Obama's] strategy is not convincing.
To
what extent should they support the U.S. partner in Afghanistan if
doubts are mounting that the new course is right? The allies still
do
not dare to leave their cover. But possibly tomorrow at the NATO
foreign ministers meeting we will find out how convincing Barack
Obama's policy is when looking at promises to send more troops.
There
is a high probability that the majority will back the German
position:
wait and see for the time being and, if possible, decide on
nothing."

Frankfurter Rundschau (12/03) editorialized: "It would be
interesting
to know how President Obama sees the chances for success of his new

strategy for Afghanistan.... He does not believe that it will be
absolutely successful. We know that because the President announced

the beginning of the withdrawal when he gave the marching orders for

additional 30,000 soldiers.... The date is now set, and it is
absurdly
precise so that it can only be of a political nature. A view on
America's election calendar suggests why the withdrawal must begin
in
summer 2011. Then, Obama will get ready for running for a second
term. Until then, he needs a change in Afghanistan because this war

is now his."

FT Deutschland (12/03) opined: "It is also dangerous to set a date
for
withdrawal. There were good reasons for this taboo. If the Afghan

people cannot permanently rely on the West, insurgents will be more

likely to find new supporters. However, the counter-argument has
become more important since the debacle over Karzai's re-election.

The allies need to build up a threat scenario concerning Karzai.
Only
if the corrupt president knows that he must live without western
financial and military help in the foreseeable future, can he be
moved
to set up a functioning state."

Leipziger Volkszeitung (12/03) opined: "The Chancellor does not say

whether she considers Obama's strategy to be right or wrong. She
only
praises the vigorous signal. This is praise without contents,

BERLIN 00001530 005 OF 006


because
only the London conference on January 28 will take stock of the
military and civilian efforts of the international community in
Afghanistan. Either Washington is now much wiser than the
government
in Berlin or the German government is afraid, because the activities

of Colonel Klein already seem to be too much for it. Obama decided
to
massively increase forces and then to withdraw as quickly as
possible.
This is the only variant he is able to convey to his people. For
the
Chancellor the matter is easier: to send massive forces has not been

an option the German people have ever been willing to accept."

Regional daily SQchsische Zeitung of Dresden (12/03) judged: "With
this plan Barack Obama is accepting great risks, not only militarily

but also politically because the U.S. President does not have a
guarantee that Germany and the other allies will follow him and
increase their forces in Afghanistan. Obama's goal of creating a
decisive change in Afghanistan in the coming 18 months is not based
on
a convincing concept but on the principle of hope. This is too
little
as a reason to send more soldiers."

Regional daily Kieler Nachrichten (12/03) opined: "The Taliban will

not consider President Obama's promise... to begin the withdrawal as
of
2011 as a sign of unwavering commitment to win. But Obama had no
other choice. Only with such time horizon in mind was the President

able to justify this unpopular campaign among the Americans. The
German government is under the same time pressure. But the
unpertinent tone with which the chancellor and her foreign minister

withhold a decision until January does not do justice to the matter.

If they want to keep a minimum degree of influence on the course of

events, they should quickly say what they want."

3. (Switzerland) Ban on Minarets

Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/03) commented on the response in the
Muslim
world on the Swiss ban to build new minarets: "The harsh response
clearly shows that the Swiss referendum seriously hit the Muslim
soul." Die Welt opined: "The Swiss controversy over minarets also
has
its good sides: freedom of religion has not been discussed so
passionately for a long time. However, it must make us skeptical
that
some of the people who are now outraged have not really been
advocates
of human rights in the past. There are many places in the world
where
the freedom of religion, also for Christians, is restricted more
seriously than in Switzerland.... Reactionary religions should not
be
the yardstick for the West, but those who discover religious freedom

only for themselves must be told that it is more urgent to spread
this
principle everywhere where its basis is threatened. And this

BERLIN 00001530 006 OF 006


applies
in fact to large parts of the Muslim world."

MURPHY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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