RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHLO #2596/01 3231612
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 191612Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4018
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 002596
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/12/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS AF UK PK
SUBJECT: PADDY ASHDOWN ON WAY FORWARD IN AFGHANISTAN
REF: LONDON DAILY 11/17/09
Classified By: Classified By: Richard LeBaron, Deputy Chief of Mission, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C//NF) Summary. British Parliamentarian and former UN High Representative in Bosnia Lord Paddy Ashdown recently
shared his views with DCM LeBaron on the way forward in Afghanistan. Ashdown stressed that while finding a solution
would not be easy, success was absolutely critical. Any strategy for the way forward must address three key issues: 1)
legitimize Karzai, 2) deal with corruption and 3) provide for decentralization. Public support, both at home and in the
field, is contingent on building a better case and crafting a better message. Our messages must resonate in the West as
well as in Afghanistan. Provided that the new U.S. strategy addresses these main concerns, Ashdown assured us that we
could count on Liberal Democratic Party support for the long haul. End Summary.
2. (SBU) British Parliamentarian and former UN High Representative in Bosnia Lord Paddy Ashdown recently shared his
views with DCM LeBaron on the way forward in Afghanistan, a subject on which he has written frequently in the local
press. As a senior political figure and former leader of Britain,s third largest party, Ashdown,s opinions carry
significant weight, particularly in light of his military expertise and former international roles.
Success is Critical -------------------
3. (C//NF) Ashdown observed that while there was neither a good nor an easy solution in Afghanistan, failure would
likely result in total chaos. Such chaos would lead to a breeding ground for extremists, a source of international
instability. Failure would also deliver what Ashdown referred to as possibly a "fatal blow" to NATO's credibility.
Legitimize Karzai and Deal with Corruption ------------------------------------------
4. (C//NF) II must be different from Karzai I,8 Ashdown insisted. There can be no progress without a change in the status quo.
There need to be significant credible and meaningful reforms if Karzai is to regain any national and international
legitimacy -- including rooting out corruption. Until and unless the corruption is dealt with it will be increasingly
difficult to deal with a Karzai government. Ashdown noted that one of his top priorities had he actually been appointed
as UN Commissioner to Afghanistan would have been to build up and train an independent judiciary capable of tackling the
corruption within the government.
5. (C//NF) Ashdown argued that one of the initial mistakes made in Afghanistan was to impose the Western model of
centralized government on a society that has been dominated by tribes for over a thousand years. If we want to be
successful, he said, we need to work within the existing social context and support a more decentralized approach.
Ashdown added that building up the local and regional structures would have the added benefit of weakening Karzai's
personal control, enhancing the government,s international legitimacy.
Winning Public Support at Home and on the Ground --------------------------------------------- ---
6. (C//NF) Noting the low levels of support for the war in Afghanistan among the British public, Ashdown argued that if
HMG wants to win public support it needs to do a better job of making the case -- convincing the public this is
important and demonstrating on the ground the ability to turn the situation around. The British public has not had to
deal with such large numbers of casualties in recent history. That said, Ashdown argued, they are ¬ squeamish8 and will in for the long haul8 once the case is properly made.
7. (C//NF) Perhaps as important as finding a new message at home is the challenge of finding a new message on the
ground, Ashdown said. the world safe for democracy,8 simply does not resonate well in Afghanistan; it is far too Western-centric. Ashdown
argued that, if we want to win over the Afghan public, the international community will have to come up with a message
that Afghans can support.
Liberal Democrats Support in Afghanistan ---------------------------------------- LONDON 00002596 002 OF 002
8. (C//NF) Ashdown assured us that, if President Obama,s Afghanistan strategy addresses some of these concerns, the U.S.
can count on Liberal Democratic support. This fits with party leader Nick Clegg,s November 13 Times op-ed (ref A), in
which Clegg implied he would struggle to support a plan that did not meet the very high bar that he believes President
Obama needs to set. (Liberal Democrats currently hold 63 seats in Parliament (out of 646) and the latest polls show
their support at 19 percent.) Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX