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E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/08/2018 TAGS: PREL, PREF, ESDP, CD, EUN SUBJECT: DEPLOYMENT OF EU FORCE TO CHAD HANGS IN BALANCE
Classified By: PolMinCouns Larry Wohlers for reasons 1.4 (b,d).
1. (C) Summary: France is fully committed to deploying the EU military force to Chad/CAR (EUFOR) and appears to have the backing of HiRep Solana, the Slovenian Presidency, and others, according to contacts at the EU and various member state PermReps. But Austria and Sweden are increasingly hesitant about exposing their troops to risk in an unstable environment, and Germany continues to doubt the mission's scope and capacity. Although the Operational Headquarters has restarted deployment within the past 24 hours, according to a UK contact, the EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC) was meeting today to decide whether it approved. At a minimum, France faces increased EU member state concern about the quality of military intelligence given the apparent lack of warning that rebels were descending on N'Djamena Feb. 1 and 2. French contacts say the Operation Commander, Irish Gen. Patrick Nash, is empowered to decide when the mission goes forward, but other member states say there must also be political consensus. End Summary.
2. (C) The PSC met in emergency session Feb. 3 and suspended deployment of EUFOR indefinitely in response to violent rebel attacks in N'Djamena. That decision came less than a week after EU foreign ministers gave their final approval to the mission on Jan. 28, some seven months after it was first proposed by French FM Kouchner. Now the EU is wrestling with the question of whether it is safe enough in Chad now to deploy. The PSC debated the issue Feb. 5 and is discussing it again today. In various conversations with poloffs this week, Ireland, Germany, France, and Slovenia expressed support for deployment soon, while Sweden expressed some doubts, as did Austria, according to reports.
3. (C) The EU is caught between conflicting realities on several fronts. EU decision-makers want to make certain before deploying that rebels are not regrouping for another assault, but they also face the impending start of the rainy season in a couple of months which means deployment must start very soon or wait until fall. Additionally, EU leaders wonder how much they are being manipulated by the political leadership in Sudan, which is widely assumed here to have supported the Chadian rebels. Questions being raised by member states include: Did Sudan orchestrate the rebel attacks to deter EUFOR on the eve of its deployment? If so, will it happen again? If EUFOR is canceled, will Sudan have "won"?
4. (C) France, which has always championed the mission despite indifference or opposition from a number of EU member states, including the UK and Germany, firmly expects the
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mission to go forward. The majority of the 3,700 troops will be French, but 14 other member states have pledged troops and assets as well. A French contact attributed the current cold feet by Austria and others to the fact that most of the troop-contributing countries have little experience in Africa. He spoke about the need to protect refugees and civilians and to prevent the entire region - encompassing Chad, Sudan, Central African Republic, and beyond - from sliding into chaos. But member states wonder how involved France was in defending the Deby regime and whether that will compromise perceptions of EUFOR's neutrality. They also wonder about the quality of intelligence coming from the region and whether future rebel attacks could catch EUFOR unawares.
5. (C) Despite the many doubts and questions being raised in Brussels, it appears that the mission is still on track to go forward. HiRep Solana's office said he is fully committed to seeing EUFOR deploy. The Slovenian Presidency, in a written statement and in conversations, has stressed that the current suspension is a delay, not a cancellation. Even Germany, which has never agreed to participate, said it will not block deployment and believes that as a face-saving measure, the EU must now deploy, according to a contact. A French official also noted that it would be difficult for the EU to defend continued statements of concern from Brussels that were never backed up by action. Next week may be an important window for decision-making in the EU. The Council's Africa Working Group is scheduled to meet Feb. 11 and 13, and the PSC will meet Feb. 12, all with an eye to preparing Council Conclusions for the Feb. 18 General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting. Comment: While the Operational Headquarters apparently has restarted deployment, the PSC is likely to want to give its political approval as well. End Comment. MURRAY .