Cablegate: Germany: Bundestag Set to Renew a Beefed-Up Isaf

Published: Fri 10 Oct 2008 05:05 PM
DE RUEHRL #1387/01 2841731
O 101731Z OCT 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L BERLIN 001387
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/09/2018
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1. (C/NF) SUMMARY: The Bundestag is expected to approve on
October 16 a 14-month extension of the parliamentary mandate
that authorizes Bundeswehr participation in the NATO ISAF
mission in Afghanistan. The renewed ISAF mandate will
continue to limit German forces essentially to the north of
Afghanistan, although provisions for deploying some
non-combat support in the rest of the country will be spelled
out for the first time. The renewed mandate will have a
significantly higher troop ceiling (an increase from 3,500 to
4,500), allowing Germany to fulfill its commitments on ANA
training and offering additional flexibility in responding to
crisis situations and in surging forces in support of the
Afghan presidential election. The renewed ISAF mandate will
not include authorization to participate in the planned NATO
AWACS mission, thereby requiring the government to seek a
separate stand-alone mandate once there is a NATO decision.
The new mandate will also not include expanded authority to
conduct counternarcotics interdiction, as has been requested
by SACEUR. Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel, FM Steinmeier and
DefMin Jung have agreed to eliminate the German Special
Forces (KSK) element from the separate OEF parliamentary
mandate when it comes up for renewal in November. Steinmeier
and the SPD have been spinning this in the media as an SPD
success, much to the annoyance of the Chancellery.
Eliminating the controversial KSK element -- which has gone
unused for the past four years -- was seen as a price to pay
to ensure strong parliamentary support (especially in the
SPD) for renewal of the ISAF mandate. The elimination of the
KSK element from the OEF mandate may open opportunities for
the USG to press Germany to increase its Special Forces
capability within ISAF. END SUMMARY.
Large majority expected for mandate renewal
2. (SBU) The German cabinet agreed October 7 to seek a
14-month extension of the parliamentary mandate that
authorizes Bundeswehr participation in the NATO ISAF mission
in Afghanistan. This longer mandate (the normal mandate
period is one year) is intended to ensure that the
mandate will not come up for renewal until after the seating
of the new Bundestag following the September 2009
parliamentary election, diminishing Afghanistan as a campaign
issue next year. The Bundestag held the first reading of the
draft mandate right after cabinet approval
and is scheduled to vote on it October 16. All indications
are that the mandate extension will be approved by a wide
margin, with all the Bundestag parties supporting it, except
for the small Left Party, which opposes all overseas
deployments and which has consistently voted as a solid block
against the mandate. Most Green Party parliamentarians
either abstained or voted against the mandate last year, but
are expected to support it this time around, given that their
concerns about the possible combat role of the German Tornado
reconnaissance aircraft under the mandate have not
Rolling-over the previous mandate
3. (C) The proposed mandate is similar to the existing one,
which essentially limits German forces to the north of
Afghanistan. The mandate technically allows deployments,
limited in time and scope, outside the north on an
exceptional basis, if deemed by the German defense
minister to be absolutely essential to the ISAF mission. But
up to now, the German government has been very reluctant to
exercise this authority in regard to combat forces. For
example, the government still does not allow German
Operational and Mentoring Liaison Teams (OMLTs) to
accompany their assigned Afghan National Army (ANA) units on
deployments outside the north. With less than a year to go
before Bundestag elections, we anticipate the government will
remain exceedingly cautious and conservative in making use of
the exception in the mandate.
New features in renewed mandate
4. (SBU) While the renewed mandate will be mostly unchanged,
there are a few notable improvements:
-- Increase in the troop ceiling from the 3,500 to 4,500:
Germany is currently right up against the 3,500 troop ceiling
because of the need over the past several months to
deploy additional troops to respond to the deteriorating
security situation in the north, to fill in for departing
Allied troops (primarily Czech and Danish soldiers who
re-deployed to the south and east), and to take on new tasks
(like the 200-man RC-North Quick Reaction Force). Defense
Minister Jung has emphasized that the increase in the troop
ceiling does not mean Germany will be sending an additional
1,000 soldiers to Afghanistan immediately. While there may
be a small increase in troops right away (up to 3,800 or
3,900) so that Germany can fulfill its previous ANA training
commitments, the rest of the additional troop authorization
will be held in reserve. It will be used to give military
leaders additional flexibility in responding to crisis
situations and in surging forces in support of the 2009
Afghan presidential elections.
-- Blanket authorization to exceed the troop ceiling during
rotations: This will give the Bundeswehr more flexibility in
moving units in and out of Afghanistan without having to
worry about temporarily exceeding the troop ceiling.
-- Explicit permission for certain units and assets to
operate throughout Afghanistan: Some 30 radio operators have
been based in Kandahar for more than a year under the
exception in the mandate that allows time-limited deployments
outside the north. Under the new mandate, they
will be covered as a permanent deployment. Other assets and
personnel that will be included in this category:
Psychological operations personnel, Tornado reconnaissance
aircraft, C-160 aircraft providing intra-theater airlift, and
MEDEVAC helicopters.
No authorization for awacs
5. (C) After much hand-wringing over the summer about the
potential impact on maintaining a strict divide between
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and ISAF (ref A), the
government was prepared to include an authorization in the
renewed ISAF mandate for German air crews to
participate in the proposed NATO AWACS mission in
Afghanistan. But those plans were dashed in late September
when France blocked a NATO decision giving the green light
for planning the mission. MFA officials have rejected
including language in the renewed ISAF mandate that would
anticipate a future NATO decision on AWACS, claiming that the
Bundestag would oppose this as a "blank check." As a result,
the renewed ISAF mandate will be completely silent
on the issue, requiring, therefore, the government to seek a
separate stand-alone mandate on AWACS later once there is a
NATO decision authorizing the mission. We have been assured
by senior sources in the Chancellery (protect) that Germany
will approve the required mandate for the deployment of
German AWACS crews, once NATO approves the AWACS mission.
6. (C) Current thinking in the MFA is that the government
will not seek a AWACS mandate until the end of the NATO
decision-making process, when all the details over financing
and stationing of the NATO AWACS have been worked out. This
ensures that there will be a decent interval between approval
of the ISAF mandate and the need for the government to go
back to the Bundestag for the stand-alone AWACS mandate. MFA
officials acknowledge that waiting until the end of the
process to seek Bundestag authorization also ensures that
they do not waste political capital on obtaining a mandate
that may never be used because of possible problems or delays
in NATO decision-making.
No additional authority on counternarcotics
7. (C) The renewed ISAF mandate will also contain no expanded
authorization for the Bundeswehr soldiers to engage in
counternarcotics (CN) interdiction in Afghanistan. According
to xxxxxxxxxxxx, the Chancellery supported
including language to expand ISAF CN tasks in the Bundestag
mandate, but was pushed back by DefMin Jung. At this stage,
German officials remain opposed to a Bundeswehr lead role in
CN interdiction operations. xxxxxxxxxxxx
told the DCM that Germany would try to support the temporary
"opt in" arrangement endorsed by NATO Defense Ministers at
their October 9-10 meeting in Budapest. He saw potential
problems, including with the Bundestag, if Allies that "opt
in" need to draw on common ISAF capabilities. He said
assurances on this score would be helpful. The MFA has also
stressed its reservations about other Allies or ISAF
contributors taking a lead role in CN operations, for fear of
the knock-on effects for German forces. As a result, under
the renewed ISAF mandate, the Bundeswehr will be limited to
the CN support activities already outlined in the current
ISAF Operations Plan (OPLAN).
No deadline for withdrawal
8. (U) Peter Ramsauer, the Bundestag leader of the Christian
Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor
Merkel's CDU, had publicly advocated adopting an "exit
strategy" and setting a timeline for the eventual withdrawal
of the Bundeswehr from Afghanistan, but this was rejected by
both Merkel and Steinmeier. A government spokesman said the
Chancellor and Foreign Minister "were agreed that it would be
irresponsible to discuss a withdrawal deadline or an end of
the mandate now."
Oef mandate
9. (C) There is a separate parliamentary mandate that covers
the Bundeswehr's participation in OEF, the renewal of which
will be debated and voted on in November. The current
mandate authorizes the deployment of up to 100 German Special
Forces (KSK) in Afghanistan as well as the deployment of
naval personnel and ships around the Horn of Africa. The
current OEF troop ceiling is 1,400, but only about 250
Bundeswehr military personnel are now deployed under the
mandate, all of whom participate in the maritime mission; the
KSK reportedly has not been deployed to Afghanistan under OEF
in the last four years. Jung announced months ago that he
planned to seek a reduction in the OEF ceiling to 800 during
the next mandate renewal.
10. (S/NF) One of the most dramatic developments in recent
weeks has been the decision of the government to eliminate
the German Special Forces (KSK) element from the separate OEF
parliamentary mandate when it comes up for renewal in
November. Steinmeier and his Social Democratic Party (SPD)
have spun this to the public as their achievement.
Eliminating the controversial KSK element -- which has gone
unused for the past four years -- was seen by the governing
coalition as a price to pay to ensure strong parliamentary
support, especially in the SPD, for renewal of the ISAF
mandate. xxxxxxxxxxxx While deleting the
KSK from the OEF mandate will have no practical effect on the
ground in Afghanistan, it will formally end Germany's
participation in OEF in Afghanistan, which could be
misconstrued by some as a symbolic step back from supporting
the war on terror.
Total cost of mission: over 1 billion euros per year
11. (SBU) Germany's military deployment is expected to cost
almost 700 million Euros over the next year. Combined with
the 140 million Euros that it has budgeted for
reconstruction, development and humanitarian assistance, plus
what it spends on the police training mission, Germany's
total outlay per year for the mission in Afghanistan is now
more than 1 billion Euros.
12. (C) Germany remains committed to the ISAF mission
without time limits or conditions and has steadily increased
its overall contributions and filled all the shortfalls in
its region. However, up to now, it has remained unwilling to
deploy combat troops outside the north. The elimination of
the KSK element from the OEF mandate may open opportunities
to seek greater use of German Special Forces on a
country-wide basis under ISAF. The KSK is, in fact, already
deployed in Afghanistan, and has been for months, but is
apparently there under German national control to track down
those responsible for recent attacks on the Bundeswehr. As
far as we are aware, the KSK has not yet been made available
to COMISAF for ISAF missions outside the north, even though
such missions could be covered under the exception in the
ISAF mandate. Convincing the Germans to make the KSK
available for country-wide missions under ISAF would take
time and would probably require direct engagement with
Chancellor Merkel and FM Steinmeier. Even after general
approval was received, each specific deployment outside the
north would likely require the consent of DefMin Jung as
specified in the ISAF mandate.
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