Viewing cable 05VILNIUS358

05VILNIUS3582005-04-06 14:28:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
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 VILNIUS 000358 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/05/2015 
     ¶B. VILNIUS 198 
     ¶C. VILNIUS 103 
Classified By: Political/Economic Officer Alexander Titolo for reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d) 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministry 
officials told State POLAD designee to the Lithuania-led PRT 
Michael Metrinko March 30 - April 1 that Lithuania is moving 
forward with plans to lead a multinational provincial 
reconstruction team in Chaghcharan, Afghanistan.  The 
Lithuanians, some just back from a reconnaissance mission to 
Chaghcharan, were confident that they will establish a base 
camp before the onset of winter.  On April 2, the MFA 
provided a copy of an updated (but still notional) list for 
SHAPE detailing Lithuania's resource requirements to 
establish and sustain the PRT, based on their new 
understanding of the PRT site.  Metrinko counseled the 
Lithuanians on the composition of their team, the 
establishment of PRT goals, and the challenges they will face 
in Western Afghanistan.  The way forward includes 
coordination of the PRT players -- both the interagency 
players within Lithuania and multilaterally through SHAPE. 
The Mission 
¶2. (C) MOD Undersecretary Renatas Norkus defined the PRT's 
goal as "helping the Ghowr provincial government connect to 
the Karzai central government."  Over the course of three 
days of meetings with Michael Metrinko, Norkus and others 
acknowledged that the mission would initially focus on 
security and gradually expand to civil reconstruction and 
development projects.  Norkus was candid about the MOD's lack 
of experience with this type of work and the need for USAID 
and U.S. State assistance and resources to execute such 
Deployment Timeline 
¶3. (C) Lt. Col. Gintautas Zenkevicius, whom the GOL has 
designated as commander for the initial PRT deployment, 
expressed confidence that initial operations will begin in 
mid- or late June and that the PRT would be fully operational 
by mid October.  Norkus said that Lithuania had preliminary 
commitments from the UK to provide language training prior to 
deployment.  Metrinko met with Zenkevicius on March 31, one 
day after the Lithuanian commander had returned from 
Afghanistan.  Raising various challenges of operating in 
Ghowr Province, Zenkevicius said he intended the PRT to 
operate in Chaghcharan throughout the winter in order to 
maintain credibility with the local residents and to avoid 
having to rebuild their facilities from year to year. 
Zenkevicius's main concern regarding timing is the GOL's 
dependence on the establishment of a fully functional forward 
support base in Herat by the time the Lithuanians are 
in-theater.  Lithuanian advance elements will be on the 
ground in Kabul and Herat by early May to coordinate with 
ISAF and contractors. 
Deployment Size 
¶4. (C) Zenkevicius told us he plans to deploy a contingent of 
upwards of 100 troops, possibly increasing the number as the 
mission progresses.  The MOD has asked the Lithuanian 
Parliament (Seimas) to raise the current ceiling of 70 troops 
deployable in Afghanistan to 150.  MFA POLAD designee Danius 
Baublys, who has followed this initiative, said he expects 
the Seimas to take up the authorizing bill the week of April 
¶4.  Vaclov Stankevic and Rasa Jukneviciene, respectively 
Chair and Deputy of the Seimas NATO Commission, expressed 
solid commitment to Lithuania's playing an active role in 
NATO operations, and voice support for the PRT, which 
Stankevic termed a "responsible and honorable task." 
Building a PRT 
¶5. (U) Returning from their reconnaissance mission better 
informed about the PRT site's challenges and resource 
limitations, the GOL revised its list of resource 
requirements.  The list, which the GOL will present to SHAPE 
and which we faxed April 4 to EUR and PM, represents the 
complete needs assessment of the full scale PRT.  The list 
details Lithuania's projected needs for strategic airlift for 
deployment and sustainment of the PRT; personnel equipment 
and capabilities to maintain the airfield; and equipment for 
the PRT and base camp operations.  It also outlines training 
requirements for specialized drivers and mechanics and for a 
tactical air control party.  The resident U.S. Cubic 
representative, the defense contractor that advises the MOD, 
accompanied the GOL team to Chaghcharan and helped develop 
the list.  He explained that the list is a compendium, and 
acknowledges that it includes some items Lithuania has 
already requested through other channels.  (More complete 
evaluation of the list will follow septel.) 
¶6. (C) Zenkevicius said he would build the PRT base camp 
using local materials (stone) and local labor, and agreed 
with Metrinko on the value of leaving behind a useful 
facility when the PRT withdraws.  MFA Director of Security 
Policy Kestutis Jankauskas raised a potential problem, noting 
that, although the recon team had identified a site for the 
base camp, they had been unable to determine ownership of the 
land.  Metrinko cautioned against beginning construction 
before identifying the owner, to forestall any claims to the 
completed structures.  (NOTE:  With no diplomatic mission in 
Kabul, the GOL may need assistance in securing title to the 
property.)  Zenkevicius described the forward support base 
and winter conditions as his biggest concerns, and outlined 
his priorities as construction of shelter, storage, and food 
preparation facilities for the PRT base.  Metrinko cautioned 
the GOL not to rely on availability of contractors, 
construction know-how, or materials, and advised them to plan 
for delays. 
¶7. (C) Metrinko told MFA Undersecretary Dalius Cekuolis that 
"Lithuania's presence will be the model by which local 
residents of Chaghcharan judge the world."  He suggested that 
Zenkevicius initiate civil activities as soon after arrival 
as possible, and not focus exclusively on constructing the 
camp.  Metrinko further suggested the team include members, 
either from the military or other agencies, with locally 
appropriate (if not essential) skills, including animal 
husbandry, tree planting, sanitation, construction and 
carpentry, automotive mechanics, and engineering, who could 
be of service both to the PRT and to the community.  He 
warned against minimizing the difficulties of procuring and 
storing essential supplies, including adequate stores of fuel 
and water, should the PRT be unable to keep the airstrip open 
during the winter.  Metrinko advocated beginning operations 
with a small deployment, and expanding the numbers and the 
base camp in the future.  Jankauskas told us, April 2, that 
the GOL is considering adopting Metrinko's recommendations 
and initially deploying two mobile units. 
Building Public Support 
¶8. (C) Local officials told us the PRT mission clearly 
establishes Lithuania's new position in the international 
arena, moving, as MP Jukneviciene said, "from a nation that 
receives support to one that offers it."  Jukneviciene and 
Stankevic identified a lack of public awareness or 
understanding of this new role, and are eager to explore 
ideas for engaging the community in the country's overseas 
commitments.  They discussed the possibility of establishing 
a Sister Cities program between Lithuanian and Ghowr towns, 
linking Lithuanian and Afghan schools through contribution of 
educational materials, and bringing Afghans to Lithuania for 
study trips or summer camps.  We also suggested that troops 
returning from PRT assignments could be made available to 
talk about the work they did and how it affected the lives of 
the Afghan people.  MOD officials also recognize that this 
deployment could strain military families, and looked to us 
to learn about the extensive support structure on which U.S. 
military families rely. 
The Road Ahead 
¶9. (C) To ensure that planning for the PRT involves all GOL 
elements, Norkus said that Lithuania will convene an 
interagency coordinating council, patterning it on the 
Euro-Atlantic Commission that had orchestrated Lithuania's 
preparations for NATO membership.  (We understand that the 
MFA may lead this council.)  In mid-April, Lithuania will 
also host a force generation meeting with PRT partners. 
¶10. (C) The reconnaissance mission to Chaghcharan provided a 
reality check for Lithuanian PRT planners, but it did not 
dissuade them from taking on this ambitious mission. 
Metrinko's visit and assignment to the PRT was an important 
step in progression of the planners' learning curve.  Already 
on the ground in Afghanistan, Metrinko could be of 
considerable use to the Lithuanians if he remains either in 
Herat or Kabul until initial operations begin.  In either 
location, he might conveniently address GOL questions, 
identify resources and contacts, and generally smooth the way 
for the arrival of the PRT advance, who will have precious 
little time to waste if they are to meet their current