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Viewing cable 06THEHAGUE210, NETHERLANDS/ISAF: TURNING THE CORNER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06THEHAGUE210 2006-01-31 17:05 2011-02-02 15:03 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy The Hague
VZCZCXYZ0002
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTC #0210/01 0311722
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 311722Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4692
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2587
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0136
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHTC/USDAO THE HAGUE NL PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 000210 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/UBI, EUR/RPM, SA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR NL AF
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/ISAF: TURNING THE CORNER 
 
REF: GRUBB/SCHOFER EMAILS TO WASHINGTON ...

51300

2006-01-31

06THEHAGUE210

Embassy The Hague

CONFIDENTIAL

C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 000210

SIPDIS
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/UBI, EUR/RPM, SA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2016

TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR NL AF

SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/ISAF: TURNING THE CORNER

REF: GRUBB/SCHOFER EMAILS TO WASHINGTON

Classified By: Charge D'Affaires Chat Blakeman,
reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: Following over 12 hours of Parliamentary
hearings on January 30, the two largest parties in the Dutch
Parliament -- the coalition CDA and opposition PvdA -- appear
poised to vote in favor of participating in ISAF III. This
would all but ensure a broad majority in favor of deployment
when Parliament takes up the issue again on February 2.
Senior MFA officials and parliamentary contacts credited the
mostly positive hearings, especially a confidential brief by
SACEUR, with shifting the tide in favor of deployment.
Public statements of support from UN SYG Kofi Annan,
Australian Foreign Minister Downer, EU Special Representative
Vendrell, and SACEUR added to the positive momentum. End
summary.

Long Day of Testimony
---------------------

2. (C) On January 30, spokespersons from the Second Chamber's
foreign affairs committee heard from a number of officials
and experts linked to Afghanistan, including Afghan Foreign
Minister Abdullah and Defense Minister Wardak, Chairman of
the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission Sima Samar,
Kabul University Chancellor Ashraf Ghani, Afghan
parliamentarians from Uruzgan, EU representative to
Afghanistan Fracesc Vendrell, French commander of special
forces and former ISAF commander Gen. Py, Former military
advisor to the UN SYG Gen. van Kappen, as well as journalists
and experts from NGOs, institutes, and universities.

3. (C) An overwhelming majority of the testimony presented
supported Dutch involvement in Stage III; many sought to
encourage the Dutch while assuaging some of their major
concerns (see refs for more complete read-out). FM Abdullah
said the Dutch could continue to monitor prisoners
transferred to the Afghan National Authority. Former Afghan
Minister of Finance Ghani said this is not a case of
charity, but of Dutch national interests and suggested the
Netherlands could help with water management issues in
Uruzgan. EU Representative for Afghanistan Vendrell said the
Dutch should be proud to be among the usual suspects called
upon to do vital work in Afghanistan; a negative Dutch
decision would affect the EU's reputation and reduce its
influence in the world.

4. (C) Several NGOs and institutes cautioned the Dutch to
temper their expectations for success. Johannes Oosterkamp
of the Alternative Income Project Helmand said Dutch troops
should expect bomb attacks and ambushes. Gen. van Kappen
argued that the Dutch could accomplish very little in two
years time, but suggested that someone must lay the
groundwork for Afghan reconstruction, and the Dutch can and
should take the mission. Only journalist Arnold Karskens --
who wrote an account of his visit to Uruzgan for the Dutch
tabloid Nieuwe Revu -- suggested that the mission was
impossible.

Other Important Visitors
------------------------

5. (C) Several other international heavyweights visited The
Hague and spoke on the margins of the parliamentary hearings.
SACEUR briefed select parliamentarians on the distinction
between ISAF and OEF. Discussion included a lively exchange
on mission viability, flexibility regarding the two year
mission length, and Plan B prospects following a Dutch
negative decision. Gen. Jones later spoke to the press,
dismissing Stage III comparisons to Srebrenica and noting
that ISAF would have far more troops in southern Afghanistan
than currently in OEF. UN SYG Kofi Annan told the press that
the mission would not be as successful as hoped without the
Dutch deployment. Australian Foreign Minister Downer
expressed confidence in the Dutch military, and hoped that
Australia would work with the Netherlands in Afghanistan
should the Dutch parliament approve the mission.

Labor More Supportive
---------------------

6. (C) Following the weekly parliamentary faction meeting on
January 31, Labor Party (PvdA) leader Wouter Bos told the
press that the Cabinet was heading in the right direction
on Stage III. He noted that Dutch military intelligence
brief to parliamentarians and the January 30 hearings had
made the decision much easier. He added that many Labor
Party members were in favor of the mission, a couple still
cannot say yes, and a few still have doubts, but the Labor
Party will vote as one voice. Bos stressed that we are
not there yet; Labor will make a final decision February 2.
PvdA foreign policy spokesman Bert Koenders separately told
the press that the January 30 hearings and statements by
senior international figures had had a positive impact on the
party's views of the mission, noting that when the EU, UN,
and NATO all support (a mission), then you have to take it
seriously.

CDA: Done Deal
--------------

7. (C) In a conversation with PolCouns January 31, CDA
foreign policy spokesman Henk Jan Ormel predicted that CDA
would vote overwhelmingly in favor of the deployment. The
hearings, he stressed, had helped CDA leadership overcome
divisions within the party; now, he said, only one CDA member
(out of 44) remained adamantly opposed to the mission, where
only a few days ago the number was between 10 and 15. Ormel
also predicted that the PvdA would support the mission, and
credited SACEUR's testimony with giving the PvdA's leadership
what they needed to make a positive decision. He added that
while coalition member D-66 remains opposed to the mission,
that is no longer a government problem but a problem for
D-66, as it would be suicide for the party to leave the
coalition under current circumstances.

MFA Officials Believe Corner Turned
-----------------------------------

8. (C) Deputy POLDIR Pieter de Gooijer and MFA Security
Department Head Rob de Groot separately told Emboffs January
31 they believed a corner had been turned in the ISAF III
debate. With VVD firmly on board and CDA already leaning in
favor of deployment, the apparent shift of PvdA all but
guarantees a broad majority in favor of the deployment on
February 2. De Gooijer and de Groot both praised SACEUR for
providing the final piece needed to bring PvdA on board, and
expressed thanks to the Mission for providing critical
assistance while maintaining a low profile. De Groot noted
that only D-66, which remains firmly opposed to the mission,
still tries to portray the mission in terms of supporting
U.S. policy; all other actors are debating the mission on its
merits, which is an argument the government believes it can
and will win.

COMMENT:
--------

9. (C) The debate is not over, but for the first time Dutch
government officials and parliamentarians are openly
predicting a broad parliamentary majority in favor of
deployment on February 2. The apparent PvdA shift is a major
turning point, and the GONL deserves credit for bringing the
maximum international pressure to bear through a coordinated
strategy of a positive media campaign and the January 30
hearings. All parties agree SACEUR's briefing to
Parliamentarians, and timing the debate to coincide with the
London Conference, were key to neutralizing the most serious
arguments against the mission. Parties opposed to the
mission may still force a roll call vote -- but even then,
a majority of PvdA members equates to a broad majority in
favor of the mission. The next forty-eight hours will be
critical, and we plan to meet with parties still on the
fence, including List Pin Fortuyn. But -- for once -- the
trend is definitely in the right direction.

BLAKEMAN