144487 3/6/2008 5:59 08CANBERRA230 Embassy Canberra CONFIDENTIAL 08CANBERRA153|08CANBERRA185|08STATE19516 VZCZCXRO6762 OO RUEHPW DE RUEHBY #0230/01 0660559 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 060559Z MAR 08 FM AMEMBASSY CANBERRA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9148 INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE RUEHBN/AMCONSUL MELBOURNE IMMEDIATE 5051 RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH IMMEDIATE 3334 RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY IMMEDIATE 3240 RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 0779 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CANBERRA 000230
STATE FOR D, P, EUR, SCA AND EAP
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2018 TAGS: NATO, PREL, MOPS, MARR, AF, AS SUBJECT: AUSTRALIA MULLS ADDITIONAL INPUTS TO AFGHANISTAN IN ADVANCE OF NATO BUCHAREST SUMMIT
REF: A. STATE 19516 B. CANBERRA 185 C. CANBERRA 153 (NOTAL)
Classified By: Political Counselor James F. Cole, for reasons 1.4 (b),( d).
1. (C) Beyond Australia's contribution of an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) to be embedded with the Afghan National Army's (ANA) Kandak battalion in Afghanistan's southern province of Oruzgan, which Defense Minister Fitzgibbon previewed for the Ambassador and later announced in Parliament on February 19 (Ref C), Australian officials continue to consider other possible contributions for Afghanistan. Early indications are that Australia likely will not be in a position to pledge additional military inputs, for example, an OMLT for ANA headquarters or other OMLTs for ANA combat support battalions as suggested in Ref A, by the time of the April 2-4 NATO Bucharest Summmit. The GOA is looking hard at non-military inputs, however, for example, deploying an Australian Federal Police (AFP) contingent to address the twin challenges of training Afghan police and countering the narcotics trade, and increasing bilateral aid aimed at capacity building. Prime Minister Rudd is planning to attend the summit. End summary.
2. (C) Embassy presented parallel demarches drawn from Ref A at the Assistant Secretary level in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on February 28, and to the senior official responsible for defense policy on Afghanistan at the Australian Department of Defense on March 4.
3. (C) DFAT Assistant Secretary for South and West Asia Andrew Shearer, who was joined by DFAT Afghanistan Director Jon Merrill, offered the view that Australia's other military commitments, including most recently in East Timor, would make it difficult for Australia to contribute further OMLTs beyond what had been announced by Defense Minister Fitzgibbon on February 19. He did not explicitly rule out the possibility, however, and referred us to the Australian Department of Defence for a more informed view on the likelihood of additional military contributions. He told us the timing of the deployment of the Australian OMLT to Oruzgan Province had not yet been set, adding the GOA was unhappy that the OMLT would be required to undergo NATO certification. Shearer noted the Australian Rotary Wing Group had been extended in Afghanistan, and was just starting up operations.
4. (C) Shearer noted that the GOA was contemplating sending a unit of Australian Federal Police to Afghanistan, supplementing the four AFP officers currently there, to assist in police training and counter-narcotics. Details were not yet available. In addition, he said the GOA was considering other non-military assistance, for example in capacity building. A policy shift was underway as well, he added, in which Australian aid would increasingly shift from contributions through multilateral organizations to more focused bilateral assistance, coordinated closely with the United States and the United Kingdom.
5.(SBU) Shearer took the opportunity to thank the USG, Q5.(SBU) Shearer took the opportunity to thank the USG, particularly the U.S. Mission in Kabul and the SCA Bureau, for accommodating Australian diplomats previously housed in the Serena Hotel. He advised that Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan Brett Hackett will be succeeded by Martin Quinn, coming from Seoul, by the end of March 2008.
6. (C) Separately, the Defense Attache met with Dr. Sheridan Kearnan, Director, Afghanistan, International Policy Division, Australian Department of Defense, on March 4 to present Ref A points and to press for Australian consideration for additional OMLTs. In advance of a formal GOA response, Kearnan opined that Australia was unlikely to commit to any additional inputs before the Bucharest conference, and hinted that any further Australia contribution would hinge in part on what other countries,
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especially NATO members, were prepared to offer. Sheridan confirmed that Defense Minister Fitzgibbon would attend, along with Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Chief of the Defence Force, and Nick Warner, Secretary of the Department of Defence. (We learned on March 6 from David J. Ritchie, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is planning to attend the NATO Summit at Bucharest.)
7. (C) In a brief conversation with poloff on February 27, Mark Walters, National Manager of the Australia Federal Police's International Deployment Group, confirmed that the AFP was drawing up plans for an enhanced program in Afghanistan but was unable to provide details, as they had not yet been cleared internally.