Cablegate: Media Reaction: Afghanistan, Switzerland;Berlin
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
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
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SECDEF FOR USDP/ISA/DSAA, DIA FOR DC-4A
VIENNA FOR CSBM, CSCE, PAA
"PERISHABLE INFORMATION -- DO NOT SERVICE"
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
carmaker Daimler's decision to move parts of its production to the
United States. Most major paper also carried front-page editorials
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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strategy, the beginning of the end. The Chancellor speaks of a
powerful approach to bring the bad situation in Afghanistan to a
end. What is not being said in this country, particularly within
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
The German army is currently planning to increase the number of
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
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
the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan contributes to protecting
Germans from international terrorism. If she means what she says
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
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
He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of
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.
is going to war -- and from there it will continue ahead to peace.
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
hardly be able to evade this strategy that has been sold as a
without alternative. If the Bundestag decides today on extending
ISAF mandate, then the government will keep this fact out of the
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debate, because it will know only early next year how many forces
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
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
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
The military resolve must thus correspond to the resolve with
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.
at the end, there was the insight that a politically and
based resistance movement cannot be defeated militarily.
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.
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
turned against him."
Die Welt (12/03) opined in a front-page editorial that "in West
it was not a strategist, but a politician, who delivered a speech.
Barack Obama's announcement...should do justice to all sides
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
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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
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.
what extent should they support the U.S. partner in Afghanistan if
doubts are mounting that the new course is right? The allies still
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.
is a high probability that the majority will back the German
wait and see for the time being and, if possible, decide on
Frankfurter Rundschau (12/03) editorialized: "It would be
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
precise so that it can only be of a political nature. A view on
America's election calendar suggests why the withdrawal must begin
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
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.
if the corrupt president knows that he must live without western
financial and military help in the foreseeable future, can he be
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
praises the vigorous signal. This is praise without contents,
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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
in Berlin or the German government is afraid, because the activities
of Colonel Klein already seem to be too much for it. Obama decided
massively increase forces and then to withdraw as quickly as
This is the only variant he is able to convey to his people. For
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
a convincing concept but on the principle of hope. This is too
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
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
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
its good sides: freedom of religion has not been discussed so
passionately for a long time. However, it must make us skeptical
some of the people who are now outraged have not really been
of human rights in the past. There are many places in the world
the freedom of religion, also for Christians, is restricted more
seriously than in Switzerland.... Reactionary religions should not
the yardstick for the West, but those who discover religious freedom
only for themselves must be told that it is more urgent to spread
principle everywhere where its basis is threatened. And this
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in fact to large parts of the Muslim world."