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Cablegate: Proposal to Send Turkish Journalists to Afghanistan

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAK #0118/01 0251552
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251552Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0178
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1830
INFO RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 6823
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
PROG

UNCLAS ANKARA 000118

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE, EUR/PPD, SRAP, SCA/A

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS NATO AF TU
SUBJECT: PROPOSAL TO SEND TURKISH JOURNALISTS TO AFGHANISTAN

1. (U) This is an action request. Please see para. 9.

Turkey: A Key Contributor in Afghanistan...
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Turkey is an important contributor to NATO's
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan
and is a key partner in the USG's broader efforts in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. Turkey has over 1700 troops
deployed to Afghanistan, is currently leading
Regional-Command Capital (RC-Capital), has fielded a civilian
Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Wardak since 2006, is
planning to stand up a second PRT in Jawzjan Province,
recently announced an ambitious program to train a brigade's
worth of Afghan national security forces (ANSF) personnel in
Turkey, has pledged 200 million dollars for reconstruction in
Afghanistan, and will host a trilateral summit among Turkey,
Afghanistan and Pakistan on January 25 and a Afghanistan
Regional Summit on January 26.

...But Public Support Remains Weak
----------------------------------

3. (SBU) The extent of Turkey's involvement in Afghanistan,
unfortunately, is little known and poorly understood by the
public in Turkey. More Turks are opposed to NATO's mission
in Afghanistan than are supportive, and most do not support
Turkish contributions to ISAF and would prefer that Turkey
withdraws its troops from Afghanistan. If current trends
persist, weak public support for ISAF could eventually
translate to an erosion of political support for increasing
or even maintaining Turkey's contributions to NATO's
essential mission, especially in advance of national
elections scheduled for mid-2011. While Post regularly
nominates a Turkish participant to the periodic multi-country
USNATO Afghanistan Tour for journalists, these tours do not
have a Turkey focus and have not resulted in a significant
amount of media coverage for Turkey's contributions towards
Afghanistan.

The Proposal
------------

4. (SBU) Post believes that Turkey's command of RC-Capital
and its plans to establish a second PRT in Jawzjan provides
an optimal window to send a group of 10 Turkish journalists
to Afghanistan for a week. Through this program, we hope to:
a. underscore our shared interests in Afghanistan and joint
efforts with Turkey there, including on reconstruction and
development;
b. better explain NATO's ISAF mission and what NATO is doing
to protect civilian populations;
c. articulate U.S. goals following President Obama's December
2 speech, including our efforts to defeat al Qaeda;
d. highlight the nature of the security challenge (the type
of operations conducted by opposing military forces against
both civilian and military targets); and
e. note the effects of operational caveats on the ability of
commanders to utilize NATO forces in Afghanistan.

5. (SBU) Our goal is to generate more positive Turkish press
coverage for NATO's ISAF operations in general and Turkey's
contributions in ISAF in particular. Highlighting Turkey as
a key player in NATO's most critical operation will also
likely generate a better appreciation for NATO itself and
greater public support for Turkey's active participation in
NATO. We envision sending a group of ten journalists and
opinion makers to Afghanistan in 2010. Their visit to
Afghanistan should include two days in Kabul, where the group
will receive briefings from officials at U.S. Embassy Kabul,
NATO ISAF Headquarters, the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, and the
Turkish commander of RC-Capital. The group would then travel
to Wardak where it will have an opportunity to observe the
Turkish PRT in Wardak in action and visit projects
established by the PRT.

GoT Buy-In and Post Support
---------------------------

6. (SBU) Post has floated the proposal to both the Turkish
MFA and the Turkish General Staff. The TGS has expressed
general support for the concept while the MFA offered to
support the program. During a conversation with PolMilCouns
on January 8 in Ankara, Turkish Ambassador to Kabul Basat
Ozturk pledged his support for the program and offered to
arrange a briefing for the group with the Turkish commander
of RC-Capital and to arrange a visit to the Turkish PRT in
Wardak. Ozturk said that this program would be in line with
his own efforts to generate greater understanding and
appreciation in Turkey of Turkey's contributions in
Afghanistan. Post PAS has allocated 25,000 USD in support of
this program, and post is prepared to send a pol-mil officer
to escort the group.

Missing Pieces
--------------

7. (SBU) Two essential pieces are needed for this program to
be realized. First, we will need to transport the group to
and from Afghanistan. While commercial options are
available, they are costly (over 5,000 USD per person), would
exceed Post's available funding for the program, and are
inconvenient. Another option is to take advantage of the
existing agreement for Turkey to send cargo on a weekly basis
from Incirlik Air Base to Bagram Air Base. We understand,
however, that an exception to policy will be needed in order
to use available space on these flights to transport
passengers. We would welcome Department guidance on whether
such an exception can be secured and, if not, whether there
are other cost-effective options to get the group of
journalists to and from Afghanistan.

8. (SBU) The other key piece is logistic, program, and
security support for the group while they are in Afghanistan
(including stops in Kabul and Wardak). We would greatly
welcome and appreciate support similar to that provided to
participants of USNATO's Afghanistan tour for journalists.

Action Request
--------------

9. (SBU) Post requests Department's approval of the program
proposed above. If the program is approved, we request
Department's assistance in facilitating transportation
arrangements to and from Afghanistan and Embassy Kabul's
assistance in arranging logistic and security support for the
program while the group is in Afghanistan. Post stands ready
to answer any additional questions about the proposed
program. Post POCs for the program are Embassy Spokesperson
Deborah Guido (e-mail: guidodl@state.gov; phone:
90-312-457-7312) and Pol-Mil Officer Robert Lee (e-mail:
leerd@state.gov; phone: 90-312-457-7177).


Jeffrey

"Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"

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