Cablegate: Telling the Story of Afghan Reconstruction In

Published: Mon 16 Dec 2002 02:22 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: (A) SECSTATE 251091;(B) ANKARA 8699
1. Post appreciates message of sustained interest in telling
the story of US efforts in Afghan reconstruction. Turkey has
a long historical tie to Afghanistan and is proud of its
current status as a leader in Afghan reconstruction. Our
responsibility is to demonstrate to the Turkish populace
that this is a cooperative effort, that the US is going to
stick with the program, and that we appreciate the role of
democratic, secular and Muslim Turkey in the effort.
2. Turks have ties of blood and cultural history with many
of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan. As Turkey modernized
under progressive Sultans, the Young Turks, and finally
under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, there were close relationships
with reforming elements in Afghanistan. Many Afghans studied
in Turkey throughout the 20th century. Turkish schools and
hospitals operated during most of the 23 years of bloodshed
in Afghanistan. The survival of a secular state in a Muslim
Afghanistan is important to the Turkish state.
3. Turks are not just observers of Afghan reconstruction.
They are taking a lead alongside the USA in the effort. They
follow closely all aspects of recovery: political
developments, humanitarian needs, security concerns, and
regional influences. Turks are the current leaders of the
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul - a
major commitment of troops and resources. Within days of
the fall of the Taliban, Turkish cabinet officers and senior
military leaders were in Kabul. Turkish NGOs and GOT
assistance elements have been working to re-establish
Turkish hospitals and schools throughout the northern
provinces and in the capital. The Ataturk Children's
Hospital was up and running during the first days of
liberation. During the past year Afghan military, police,
diplomatic and health officials have had training programs
in Turkish counterpart ministries. The Turkish private
sector has looked for openings and world-class Turkish
construction companies are on site, even taking a part in
the building of USG buildings in Afghanistan.
4. What are the primary misconceptions of U.S. objectives in
Afghanistan? More than misconceptions, Turks have serious
concerns about the impact that the pursuing of U.S.
objectives will lead. Turks fully recognize that U.S.
leadership in Afghan reconstruction is a potent catalyst
necessary to convince other countries and institutions to
contribute to the effort. They view generous U.S. financial
contributions as a powerful and much-appreciated example.
But . (a) There is Turkish concern is that their generosity
will be overshadowed by the U.S. (b) Their greatest fear is
that the US will lose interest, will redirect its energy and
funds to a war on Iraq, and leave Turkey "holding the bag"
or simply leave the Afghans to fall back into chaos. Turks
cite American "abandonment" of Afghanistan once the Soviets
were eliminated. They also note the US failure to "finish
off" Saddam in 1992 and their much-repeated complaint that
America drew Turkey into the Gulf War with promises of
rebuilding a new Iraq only to leave Turkey with 10's of
billions of dollars in lost trade with a sanctioned Iraq.
Within the Turkish society there are Islamist elements who
do hold serious misconceptions. There is a vocal minority
among them who still believe that our initiatives against al-
Qaeda and Iraq are really efforts to destroy Islam and to
grab the oil wealth of Islamic peoples.
5. Which reconstruction story would elicit the most positive
response in Turkey? (a) Any effective message delivered in
Turkey on Afghan reconstruction must acknowledge Turkey's
longstanding and generous efforts in Afghanistan. Even
during a serious financial crisis, the Turks have given
substantially to help the Afghans. For us to focus on US
assistance without recognizing Turkish donations of training
on site and in Turkish universities, food, seed, medicine
and baby food, without referring to the pioneering effort of
the Turkish-Afghan business Council and a variety of Turkish
NGOs would detract from the credibility of any American
message. We must show that we are doing is in a cooperative
nature along with the Turks. For Turkish TV, Betacam-sp
clips that showed Turks and American working together, then
going on to things that we are doing by ourselves, would be
effective. (b) We must also stress the fact that we are NOT
going to withdraw, but that we are pledged to stay and have
made investments that mean that we will stay. (Statements by
senior USG officials, visuals of buildings and investments
that illustrate a continuing commitment - perhaps American
moving from trailers into permanent structures) will all
help. (c) We had one of Turkey's top journalists, one with
a real interest in Afghanistan (Ferai Tinc of "Hurriyet")
ready to participate in the recently-cancelled "Afghan Road
Show" to be led by DEPSECDEF Wolfowitz. If the project is
revisited with the same leadership, there would be a real
Turkish interest - we just need to have some recognition
during the trip for the Turkish reconstruction effort.
(d) When Operation Enduring Freedom began, there was a long
delay between the time that food drops to Afghan citizens
began and footage of those drops became available to post
and/or Turkish media. Thus the plentiful visuals of our
bombs falling on Afghans, not our aid reaching them, shaped
the public image of OEF. Now there is good material
available on how we are helping the Afghans we need to keep
up the flow. Betacam-SP quality and Turkish language dubbing
will greatly increase the likelihood of placement.
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