143070 2/26/2008 14:07 08BERLIN235 Embassy Berlin CONFIDENTIAL 07BERLIN2175|08BERLIN50|08MUNICH54 VZCZCXYZ0002 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHRL #0235/01 0571407 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 261407Z FEB 08 FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0518 RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RHMFISS/COMSOCEUR VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY RHMFISS/CDRUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE PRIORITY RHMFISS/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE PRIORITY RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RUEHRL/USDAO BERLIN GE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L BERLIN 000235
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/26/2018 TAGS: PREL, MARR, NATO, GM, AF SUBJECT: GERMANY/ISAF: THE OUTLOOK FOR BUCHAREST AND BEYOND
REF: A. MUNICH 0054 B. SECDEF MSG DTG 250005Z JAN 08 C. BERLIN 0050 D. 07 BERLIN 2175
Classified By: POLITICAL MINISTER COUNSELOR JEFF RATHKE. REASONS: 1.4 ( B) AND (D).
1. (C) SUMMARY: Germany is unlikely to make any new major contributions to ISAF before the NATO Bucharest Summit in April or the Afghanistan Conference hosted by France in June, despite pleas for additional forces. German officials see no reason to re-evaluate the current Bundeswehr force posture now, given that the existing ISAF parliamentary mandate was only reviewed and renewed four months ago. Our contacts regularly remind of us of the political constraints imposed by low public support for the Afghanistan mission, but the most senior levels of the German government have not demonstrated forward-leaning leadership on these issues. We continue to push Secretary Gates' proposal that Germany deploy its Special Forces (KSK) to the south under ISAF, noting that under the OEF parliamentary mandate renewed in November, Germany already made the core commitment to deploy the KSK to Afghanistan. Assuming that the geographic restrictions of the current ISAF mandate remain in place, the KSK would probably have to be based in the north or Kabul, but it could perhaps still operate country-wide, taking advantage of the mandate exception that allows limited out-of-area deployments. There is a good chance, however, that in the end, Germany will continue to offer the KSK only through OEF. While we believe the U.S. should generally welcome contributions for Afghanistan in any form they are offered, the downside of Germany providing combat forces only through OEF, deliberately out of the public eye, is that it perpetuates the misperception here of the "good" ISAF reconstruction mission and the "bad" OEF combat mission; this misperception is one of our most serious political obstacles. Unfortunately, the reluctance of the Grand Coalition government to speak openly about the need for Germany to do more in Afghanistan, especially in sending combat troops to the south, is likely to increase as the expected Bundestag election in the fall of 2009 draws nearer. END SUMMARY.
Nothing new likely before Bucharest
2. (C) At the February 8-10 Munich Security Conference, Germany was pressed by senior U.S. officials and members of Congress to consider how it might contribute more to the mission in Afghanistan (ref A). During the conference and immediately afterwards, there was a great deal of press reporting and speculation about how Germany might try to meet that demand by, for example, increasing its current ISAF troop ceiling of 3,500 to 4,500 or 5,000, or expanding its area of operations (AO) to include part of ISAF's western region. But in recent days, MFA, MOD and Chancellery officials have emphasized to us that the government is unlikely to make any additional contributions to ISAF in the near future, and almost certainly will not do so before the April NATO Summit in Bucharest.
No change foreseen until after June Afghanistan Conference
3. (C) Increasing the troop ceiling or expanding Germany's AO is considered premature given that the ISAF mandate was reviewed and renewed only four months ago. German officials also argue that any change to the German military commitment should take into account the results of the April NATO Bucharest Summit as well as the conclusions of the June Afghanistan Conference in Paris, where the Germans want to take stock of progress in meeting the goals of the Afghanistan Compact. Some of our interlocutors believe that even after the Afghanistan Conference, there could be significant resistance to adjusting the ISAF mandate until it comes up for review and renewal in October. These one-year mandates are rarely changed in mid-course. The problem is that in October, with the 2009 Bundestag elections less than a year away, the Grand Coalition government could then be tempted to settle for a simple roll-over of the current mandate rather than risk alienating voters by seeking significant increases in German contributions. A recent poll shows that while a slight majority favors Germany's current engagement in Afghanistan (52-46%), a strong majority (80-17%) opposes any combat deployment to the south.
Already doing enough?
4. (C) We have emphasized to German officials that the burden-sharing issues raised at the Munich Security Conference are not going away and that Germany should immediately consider ways of contributing to Allied efforts in the south, including by deploying German Special Forces (KSK) under ISAF, as proposed by Secretary Gates in a January 24 letter to Defense Minister Jung (ref B). German officials have made it clear they feel no compulsion to make additional contributions before the Bucharest Summit, believing they have already made a number of new commitments since the November 2006 NATO Summit in Riga, including:
-- Increasing overall troop levels from 3,000 to 3,500.
-- Backfilling for Danish and Czech soldiers who are departing the north.
-- Agreeing to assume responsibility for the Regional Command-North (RC-North) Quick Reaction Force (QRF) from Norway this coming summer.
-- Deploying six Tornado reconnaissance aircraft, which are available for missions country-wide.
-- Tripling the number of soldiers (from 100 to 300) devoted to the training of Afghanistan National Army (ANA), including deploying up to seven Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs).
-- Increasing the number of C-160 Transall intra-theater aircraft to eight.
-- Deploying a so-called Provincial Advisory Team (PAT) to Takhar province, which essentially amounts to a full-time mini-PRT with approximately 50 military and civilian personnel.
Asking for a pause
5. (C) The U.S. push for Germany to do more has led some officials to express resentment at what they view as "Germany bashing" and to wonder why more attention is not being focused on other allies like France and Italy, who they argue are doing far less than Germany. Chancellery Security Affairs Director Geza von Geyr, citing the political unpopularity of the Afghanistan mission, told DCM Koenig that "the louder the requests from the outside, the harder it is to make progress" on getting additional German contributions. He and other officials have asked for a "pause" in the U.S. campaign for additional German commitments until after the June Afghanistan Conference in Paris. (Comment: The Chancellery's argument that U.S. pressure is impeding progress on additional contributions is unconvincing. We heard similar arguments before the 2006 NATO Summit in Riga, but have not seen concerted government efforts since then to prepare the way for qualitative changes in the German deployment. End Comment.)
SPD-CDU split on SecDef proposal regarding KSK
6. (C) The SecDef letter, proposing that Germany deploy the KSK in the south under ISAF, has elicited varying reactions within the Grand Coalition. SPD parliamentarians have tended to be open to the idea, understanding that this could allow Germany to stop making the KSK available through OEF, which remains extremely controversial here. CDU parliamentarians, on the other hand, have tended to oppose the idea, arguing that keeping the KSK under OEF shows solidarity with the United States and inoculates the U.S. and OEF against gratuitous attacks by the SPD and the opposition parties.
Government prefers status quo
7. (C) The government ministries (MOD, MFA and Chancellery) also tend to favor the status quo, apparently because they fear that any change will draw unwelcome attention to this issue and would force them to confront the public with the painful truth that ISAF is no longer just a stabilization mission. The government ministries also prefer making the KSK available through OEF because OEF is out of the public eye and allows for more confidentiality than ISAF. (Comment: The government's avoidance of any public discussion of the KSK goes far beyond normal operational security concerns and seems motivated primarily by domestic political sensitivities. End Comment.) Finally, keeping the KSK under OEF is attractive because, based on past practice, the likelihood of the KSK actually being deployed is perceived as being fairly low. Our understanding is that the KSK has not been deployed to Afghanistan under OEF in almost three years.
Stationed in the north or Kabul, but operating everywhere
8. (C) Stationing the KSK in southern Afghanistan under ISAF, as proposed in the SecDef letter, would require changes to the existing ISAF mandate, which restricts German operations mainly to the northern region and Kabul. As noted above, obtaining the necessary changes in the geographic scope of the mandate could be difficult in the short run. However, there may be a possible work-around: the KSK could be stationed in Kabul or in the north, but be available to conduct operations in other parts of the country, based on the exception in the ISAF mandate that allows out-of-area deployments as long as they are limited in time and scope and indispensable to the fulfillment of the ISAF mission. KSK operations are, by definition, quick in-and-out missions that would seem to lend themselves to this kind of arrangement. We are hopeful that when the Germans take over the RC-North QRF this summer, they will be willing to let the QRF participate in operations outside the north based on the same exception in the ISAF mandate (refs C and D).
9. (C) We believe in general that the U.S. should welcome Germany contributing forces for Afghanistan in whichever form it feels more comfortable, whether that be through OEF or ISAF. We need to be aware, however, that the downside of Germany offering the KSK and other combat forces through OEF, deliberately out of the public eye, is that it perpetuates the misperception here of the "good" ISAF reconstruction mission and the "bad" OEF combat mission. Maintaining this artificial distinction between the two operations also misleads the German public about what is required for the NATO-led ISAF mission to succeed in Afghanistan, i.e., a truly comprehensive approach that includes a robust military component to deal with hard-core insurgents who are bent on using terrorism to achieve their political objectives.
10. (C) Unfortunately, the reluctance of the Grand Coalition government to speak openly about the need for Germany to do more in Afghanistan, especially in the south, is likely to only increase as the expected Bundestag election in the fall of 2009 draws nearer. It does not help that there is a lack of trust between the CDU and the SPD on this issue: notwithstanding the SPD's relatively responsible policy up to now on Afghanistan, CDU politicians fear that any initiative that the CDU-led Ministry of Defense makes on deploying combat forces outside the north will be used against them in the 2009 election, in a re-run of the anti-war campaign that former Chancellor Schroeder ran so successfully in 2002. While we consider this concern to be overstated, the SPD is, in fact, growing increasingly worried about the electoral challenge posed by the Left Party, which is now the strongest party in eastern Germany and which has enjoyed considerable success in recent state elections in western Germany, based in part on attracting disgruntled former SPD supporters. The Left Party's populist stance on Afghanistan (it favors immediate withdrawal) contributes to an environment in which the SPD senses risks in supporting any bold, new German initiatives in Afghanistan. POLLARD