Cablegate: Visit of the Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard

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1. (SBU) Summary: Macedonia is prepared to take on increased risk in
its joint deployment beginning next month with the Vermont National
Guard (VTNG), GoM leaders told visiting VTNG Adjutant General Dubie
during his Feb 13-17 visit to Skopje. President Ivanov said he
understood that success in Afghanistan was directly relevant to his
country's security. Def Min Konjanovski expressed his appreciation
for the recent support voiced by SECDEF and SACEUR for Macedonia's
NATO membership. (End Summary)

2. (U) Major General Dubie, the Adjutant General (TAG) of the
Vermont National Guard (VTNG) visited Macedonia 13-17 February.
Since 1995, the Vermont National Guard has been the state partner of
Macedonia under the National Guard Bureau's state partnership
program. The purpose of this visit was to discuss aspects of the
upcoming combined deployment of the Vermont 86th Infantry Brigade
Combat Team (IBCT) with elements of the Macedonia Armed Forces to
Afghanistan beginning on 27 February. MG Dubie, accompanied by
Ambassador Reeker, conducted meetings with the President of
Macedonia, the Minister of Defense, and participated in a meeting
and lunch with the deploying Macedonian contingent at Illinden
Barracks. The President also hosted the Ambassador and General
Dubie at an official dinner at his Villa Vodno Residence in Skopje.
General Dubie met separately with the Chief of Defense and the
Director of the GoM's Crisis Management Center.

Deployment Update

3. (SBU) The combined deployment of the 86th IBCT and the elements
of the Macedonian Armed Forces is on track. The 79-soldier
Macedonian contingent, consisting of a Ranger platoon, a military
police platoon, and command and control section will begin
deployment to Afghanistan on 27 February. After more than a year of
planning, exchanges, and combined training, the lead six person
advanced party from the Macedonia contingent will depart on 27
February for Afghanistan and link up with the lead elements of the
Vermont National Guard Brigade. The main body of the Macedonia
contingent is expected to deploy via U.S. military air lift at the
end of March. The nine-month deployment will raise Macedonia's ISAF
contribution to 242 soldiers, with the other elements currently
serving in Regional Command Capital and Regional Command North. The
86th IBCT with its embedded Macedonian contingent will conduct full
spectrum operations in Regional Command East.

Ivanov: Risks Are Worth IT

4. (SBU) MG Dubie briefed the President on the change in focus of
the Afghan deployment from a training and mentoring mission to a
partnering and full spectrum operations mission. The TAG also told
the President about the seriousness of the situation in Afghanistan
and the significant risk Macedonian soldiers would face during the
Afghanistan deployment. President Ivanov was confident, based on
consultations with the Army's General Staff, that the Macedonian
soldiers were ready for this deployment. The General Staff had
briefed him on the risks inherent in this deployment and he
understood that the risk for casualties would be higher than
previous missions. The President also spoke about the need to be
prepared in the event of casualties. He spoke of the requirement to
coordinate and share information quickly so that the government
could get ahead of expected media and public reactions to
casualties. He asked that the VTNG and the ARM's General Staff work
to clearly establish procedures for casualty notification.

5. (SBU) The President explained why stabilizing Afghanistan was
important to Macedonia's national security, noting that extremist
and radical elements were present in Afghanistan and these elements
could export this dangerous ideology to the Western Balkans.
Additionally, the flow of drugs from Afghanistan to Europe also
posed a significant concern for Macedonia. Thus, Macedonia is
acting preventively to help stabilize Afghanistan. The President
mentioned that he was disappointed in the less than serious
attitudes of unnamed European leaders on the Afghan security
challenge. The Ambassador informed the President that his letter to
President Obama voicing support for the new Afghanistan strategy was
very well received. The USG very much appreciates Macedonia's
contributions and support in addressing the many global security
issues that both countries face. Working together is the best
approach in solving these serious global security challenges.
Konjanovski: Deployment Job One for MOD

6. (SBU) Def Min Konjanovski said that the deployment is the most

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important event for his Ministry, and has the full support of the
government and the Parliament. He understood the additional risks
this deployment presents, but thought that the risk was mitigated by
pre-deployment training. The Macedonian contingent has conducted
several training events and exchanges with elements of the Vermont
86th IBCT. This included participation in the brigade's Joint
Readiness Training Center rotation during October-November 2009 at
Fort Polk, Louisiana. The MOD mentioned that he had a brief
discussion with SECDEF Gates on the margins of the NATO Ministerial
in Istanbul and proudly reported that the SECDEF had applauded the
contributions of the Macedonian soldiers and Macedonia as a valued
partner. He also said that the SACEUR had expressed his desire for
Macedonia to join the Alliance ASAP. The Def Min shared that the
Ministry desired to develop its own pilot training center and hoped
to participate in a UK and French transport helicopter initiative.
He also announced the Ministry's plans to renovate the Army's winter
training facility at Popova Shapka through a tender being announced
over the next few days

7. (SBU) The Ambassador pushed the MOD to consider what is next
after this deployment. The Ambassador pointed out that the current
technical agreement with U.S. Central Command includes a provision
for Macedonia to continue the established rotation with the
follow-on U.S. Brigade that will replace the Vermont 86th IBCT. MG
Dubie indicated to the MOD that a Brigade from the Iowa National
Guard has been identified to replace the Vermont Brigade. Minister
Konjanovski told the Ambassador that the Government was considering
what is next after the current deployment, but no decisions have
been made. The Ambassador and MG Dubie both thanked the MOD for
Macedonia's contributions not only to the current deployment but to
the past deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


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