Viewing cable 03ABUJA1247

03ABUJA12472003-07-22 16:44:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001247 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/13 
Classified By Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5 
(B) AND (D). 
¶1. (C) Summary.  In a July 12 side-bar meeting during 
President Bush's visit to Nigeria, A/S Kansteiner told 
ECOWAS Executive Secretary Chambas that the United 
States was still considering its policy options in 
Liberia.  Chambas asserted United States troops were 
essential to the success of a stabilization force.  He 
added that ECOWAS leaders had agreed to deploy a 1,150 
"vanguard" quickly to Monrovia.  Chambas' timetable 
for establishing a transitional government was for 
Taylor to relinquish the Presidency by August 5, with 
Vice President Blah presiding until October, then 
handing over to a transitional government mandated to 
hold elections by October 2004.  Most likely, the 
transitional formula would be a power-sharing 
arrangement with remnants of the GOL, the LURD, MODEL, 
and major political parties participating.  At the 
meeting, Chambas was accompanied by his Information 
Officer and two Special Assistants.  Kansteiner was 
joined by Special Assistant Jim Dunlap, NSC Director 
Bobby Pittman and Abuja's A/DCM.  End Summary 
The USG: Seriously Vetting The Options 
¶2. (C) During a July 12 morning meeting at the 
Ambassador's residence, A/S Kansteiner told ECOWAS 
Executive Secretary Mohammed Ibn Chambas that the USG 
was still considering the full range of options for 
Liberia.  Kansteiner elaborated that those options 
ranged from provision of only financial support, to a 
mixture of financial and logistical assistance, to the 
possible deployment of American troops on Liberian 
soil.  A/S Kansteiner emphasized that a decision had 
not been made.  One of the reasons President Bush 
embarked on the trip to Africa was to hear from the 
continent's leaders on the subject of Liberia and to 
listen to their views on the possible introduction of 
U.S. troops there, Kansteiner said.  Kansteiner asked 
Chambas about the ECOWAS plan for troop deployment to 
¶3. (C) Chambas responded that President Obasanjo met 
Ghana's Kufuor and Mali's Toure, who were joined by 
several West Africa Foreign Ministers, on the margins 
of the AU Summit in Maputo.  The three Presidents 
agreed to the rapid deployment of 1,050 troops 
(Nigeria - 750, Ghana - 250, Mali - 150) no later than 
July 28.  This first deployment would subsequently be 
augmented by a total number of approximately 3,000 
ECOWAS troops.  Chambas added that President Obasanjo 
had named a Nigerian Brigadier General to command the 
force and Mali was being asked to supply the Deputy 
Commander.  Chambas emphasized that the Heads of State 
had concluded that a quick deployment was essential to 
avoid giving Taylor a pretext for remaining.  However, 
he feared a small force not backed by U.S. muscle, 
might not have the necessary coercive influence. 
Taylor or one of the other groups might test them. 
However, a U.S. presence, with all of its military and 
logistical capabilities, would convince Taylor that 
his era had ended, Chambas maintained. 
¶4. (C) Assuming U.S. troops would deploy, Kansteiner 
asked how large an American deployment did ECOWAS 
envision.  How may U.S. troops would it take to 
convince Taylor and the LURD to cease and desist, 
Kansteiner asked?  Chambas answered that one thousand 
American troops, particularly with a "vessel on the 
horizon," would have a sufficient sobering effect on 
Taylor and the LURD.  The full contingent would not 
have to remain throughout the exercise.  Within two or 
three weeks, roughly half could be withdrawn, Chambas 
posited.  Regarding other help the ECOWAS deployment 
would need, Chambas stated that per diem, airlift, 
logistical and equipment assistance would be needed 
for most troop contributing states.  He was unsure 
whether Nigeria would need lift assistance or could 
use their own C-130 transport. 
Timing is Important 
¶5. (C) A/S Kansteiner mentioned that the ECOWAS 
sequence calling for troop deployment a week before 
Taylor's exit was problematic.  He underscored that 
any U.S. deployment was contingent on Taylor's prior 
departure.  We have said publicly that we will not 
send troops while Taylor remained in Liberia, 
Kansteiner affirmed. Noting the USG concern, Chambas 
acknowledged the ECOWAS scenario contemplated troop 
deployment before Taylor's departure.  He briefly 
raised the possibility of ECOWAS deploying first, 
followed by an American deployment after Taylor 
departed.  However, he quickly scotched that idea, 
stating the importance to Taylor and the Liberia 
people of simultaneity in the ECOWAS and American 
deployments.  Kansteiner mentioned that President Bush 
would discuss the sequencing of the possible U.S. 
deployment with President Obasanjo; maybe a way to 
finesse this dilemna would be to fashion the 
simultaneous Taylor departure and U.S. troop 
deployment.  For instance, a MEU could anchor off the 
coast as Taylor relinquished power on his way to the 
airport.  Upon Taylor's departure, U.S. troops would 
land immediately. 
¶6. (C) Kansteiner raised concern about LURD statements 
that it would fight American or any other peacekeepers 
if deployed prior to Taylor's departure.  In part 
Chambas discounted the LURD statement as braggadoccio. 
However, he also felt this grew out of a concern that 
Taylor would footdrag once peacekeepers were deployed 
and attempt to use the peacekeepers as his defensive 
shield.  Chambas stated that it was important to talk 
to the LURD to allay these fears.  It was equally 
important that the troops deploy in a manner rendering 
it difficult for Taylor to be desultory.  Chambas 
added that President Obasanjo planned to visit Conakry 
on July 13 to discuss Liberia with President Conte. 
(Comment: Reading between the lines, we believe 
Obasanjo visited Conakry to persuade President Conte 
to influence the LURD to behave responsibly.  End 
What Manner of Government 
¶7. (C) Chambas asserted that ECOWAS leaders were 
preoccupied with maintaining as much of a 
constitutional semblance as possible in the hand-over 
of power.  The Heads of States did not want to discard 
the constitution completely; they did not want to set 
too liberal a precedent.  Consequently, Chambas had 
identified August 5 as the appropriate date for Taylor 
to relinquish power.  Taylor was inaugurated August 6, 
1997; August 5 would be the last day of his 
constitutionally mandated six-year term. 
Additionally, the ECOWAS leaders believed Taylor 
should pass the baton to Vice-President Blah in 
consonance with constitutional succession provisions. 
Chambas stated that Taylor was toying with the idea of 
replacing Blah with House Speaker Sando Johnson or 
Planning Minister Roland Massaquoi, both long-time 
loyalists, so that either one could succeed him.  LURD 
would be uneasy whether Blah or either of the other 
two became temporary Head of State; the LURD would 
suspect that Taylor was still piloting the Liberian 
ship, albeit by proxy, Chambas offered.  A/S 
Kansteiner underlined that the period for Blah to hold 
power should be brief.  This would seem to lessen the 
LURD's and others' misgivings. 
¶8. (C) Chambas reiterated that the transnational 
government should be established by October.  The 
government's lifespan would be one year; its mandate 
would be to reestablish basic government services and 
to establish conditions to hold elections the 
following October.  The date would be in keeping with 
the Liberia political custom of holding elections that 
month.  Chambas stated the ideal transitional 
government would be composed exclusively of 
technocrats with no political ambitions.  However, the 
reality was that there were few Liberians who fit that 
neutral description.  Moreover, LURD, and MODEL would 
balk at a government of technocrats because they would 
be shut out.  Instead, the most likely approach would 
be that whoever succeeds Taylor must make a public 
commitment to turn over to the transitional government 
and not contest in the 2004 elections.  Then a 
government of national unity, including LURD, MODEL, 
GOL remnants and representatives of the major 
political parties, would be formed.  Participants in 
the transitional government would be prohibited from 
participating in the 2004 elections. 
¶9. (C) Although factional involvement in the 
transitional government might be close to a fait 
accompli, factional participation should be 
conditioned on performance on disarmament, Chambas and 
Kansteiner agreed.  Factions should not be allowed to 
assume their portfolios until achieving noticeable 
progress on disarmament.  Additionally, the factions 
should not be given control of the security, financial 
matters, or access to state revenue. 
Domestic Opposition to Obasanjo 
¶10. (C) Chambas and A/S Kansteiner noted that 
President Obasanjo faced noticeable domestic 
opposition in Nigeria to his asylum offer to Taylor. 
Human right groups and others had castigated the 
decision.  Kansteiner stated that the indictment 
against Taylor was more than justified; however, for 
the sake of peace in Liberia, the United States 
Government and would not criticize Obasanjo for 
offering a haven to Taylor in the interest of peace in 
¶10. (C) The sub-regional call for American troop 
deployment is loud and it is clear.  The expectation 
is high.  However, the decision to send American 
troops, if it is made, will not be a panacea.  We will 
still have to work out sticky issues such as timing of 
Taylor departure, help for ECOWAS troop contingents 
and the establishment of the transitional government. 
The more assistance we provide, particularly if that 
assistance comes in the form of troops, the more 
leverage we will have to influence the resolution of 
these other issues and the direction the peace process 
will take.