UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001036
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS LH AF
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA REMAINS COMMITTED TO SUCCESS IN
Â¶1. (SBU) As the Fourth Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction
Team (PRT) left for Kabul November 14, Lithuania continues to
demonstrate its commitment to success in Afghanistan.
Lithuania is set to take on the entire military operating
expense of its PRT in Ghor Province starting January 2007; is
considering a fourfold expansion of its civilian assistance
programs; and may deploy its Special Forces to Afghanistan in
Â¶2007. End Summary.
Lithuania set to pay for PRT
Â¶2. (SBU) Lithuania will take over funding of the Ghor
Province PRT from the United States beginning January 2007.
"Afghanistan is priority number one," Defense Undersecretary
Renatas Norkus told Ambassador November 15. "You won't get
another letter from our minister asking for the U.S. to
extend funding to the PRT." As a result, Lithuania's 2007
budget for international operations is slated to reach nearly
90 million litas (about USD 33 million), accounting for ten
percent of its total defense spending. Much of the increase
will go to U.S. defense contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root,
which the Lithuanians will fund at least until November 2007
to provide support to the PRT.
Â¶3. (SBU) Law enforcement improvement remains Lithuania's
priority for its civilian assistance projects in Afghanistan.
A third of Lithuania's current civilian assistance goes to
technical support and training of local police, Lithuania's
Ambassador for Assistance to Afghanistan Ginte Damusis told
us. Lithuania has so far supplied the Afghan National Police
with nearly USD 130,000 in vehicles, radio sets, and
forensics kits, as well as technical training. Lithuania has
police advisors on the ground in Chaghcharan to give advice
and assistance, and has solicited technical assistance from
other allies as well, including the U.S. and Latvia. Just
last week, a Lithuanian forensics expert held training
sessions for police investigators in Chaghcharan and donated
special forensics equipment for investigating explosions.
Â¶4. (SBU) Lithuania has recruited other nations to support the
PRT projects as well. Croatia and Iceland are participating
in the current deployment, and Iceland may send additional
police advisors to PRT 5. Ukraine and Moldova are both
considering future contributions, probably of medical
personnel. (The USG currently has a POLOFF, USAID
representative, and two police mentors working with the PRT.)
Â¶5. (SBU) Lithuania's PRT has supported the Afghan National
Police in the destruction of 2.6 tons of opium. While the
PRT does not directly participate in counter-narcotics
operations, they lent political support to and advised the
local Afghan security services that confiscated the
narcotics. ISAF leadership thanked the Lithuanian team for
their role in urging the prompt and public destruction of the
drugs and in creating a security environment where the Afghan
police were able to maintain control over the drugs once
Hearts and minds projects
Â¶6. (SBU) Lithuania has engaged in "hearts and minds" projects
aiming to bring visible infrastructure development to Ghor's
communities and to give technical assistance in ways that
directly improve the health and welfare of Ghor's residents.
Lithuania spent nearly USD 100,000 to finance micro-hydro
power plants in remote villages, combined with nominal
contributions from local communities. The PRT's program to
train medical personnel, with a budget of around USD 13,000,
sponsors training courses for local obstetricians working in
remote villages in order to reduce the childbirth death rate.
The program also sponsors Afghan physicians to train in
Lithuanian hospitals in cooperation with Kaunas Medical
University. The GOL allocated 200,000 litas (USD 74,000) to
a Food-For-Work program, implemented by the World Food
Program, to mitigate the effects of drought in Ghor province.
The government has co-financed (with USAID) a
VILNIUS 00001036 002 OF 002
community-based education project implemented by Catholic
Â¶7. (SBU) The Ministry of Defense also allocates money for
goodwill projects. Lithuanian soldiers recently purchased
carpet and over 1000 copies of the Koran for mosques in Ghor
province. The MOD helped finance the reconstruction of a
secondary school in Chaghcharan in 2005, and plans to open a
Kindergarten on the premises in 2006.
Â¶8. (SBU) Lithuania has sought not only to expand its own
assistance to the region, but to take an active role in
attracting other development aid to Ghor. Lithuania has
moved its Ambassador to the PRT to Kabul part-time in order
to engage Afghan national officials as well as Kabul-based
NGOs on projects for Ghor, leveraging the relatively stable
security situation and what Lithuania is doing already.
Seeking more cash
Â¶9. (SBU) The MFA and MOD are seeking a five-fold increase,
from one million litas to five (370,000 to 1.85 million USD),
for Lithuania's civilian assistance programs to Afghanistan
in 2007. The MFA's request ultimately will rely on the
Seimas's approval, but Lithuania's Ambassador for Assistance
to Afghanistan Damusis has actively engaged MPs and pursued a
press strategy to garner support for the line-item increase.
In a recent meeting with the Ambassador, PM Kirkilas
predicted the government would be successful in obtaining
this increase from the parliament.
Shoring up support in Lithuania - public diplomacy
Â¶10. (SBU) The Lithuanian MFA has pursued an active public
relations strategy to increase support for Lithuania's
missions in Afghanistan, both in government circles and among
the public. The government collaborated last year in the
production of a well-received documentary by a Lithuanian
television producer entitled "Sand Generals." The movie
provided an unembellished picture of the challenges faced by
Lithuanian troops in Ghor, but portrayed the PRT Mission in a
very positive light. Ambassador Damusis gives numerous press
interviews, appears frequently before parliament, and has
pressed her case before university audiences and even at a
rock concert. Press coverage of the PRT has been mostly
positive, focusing on several interviews with Ambassador
Damusis and outlining how Lithuania is helping the Afghan
people. A pair of visits between Afghan and Lithuanian
officials this summer garnered much press coverage and drew
attention to the humanitarian work that Lithuania was doing.
One recent article by a local professor questioned both
Lithuania's decision to go to Afghanistan and its
effectiveness there. It was rebutted by several articles
that supported Lithuania's presence in Afghanistan as being
in its national interest, and that countered the professor's
facts. We continue to emphasize the importance of
Lithuania,s contribution in our public diplomacy efforts.
Â¶11. (SBU) The GOL continues to demonstrate its commitment to
success in Afghanistan and perceives this as its most
important international mission. The government, press, and
public at large generally support the mission and see it in
terms of Lithuania's national interest as a contributor to
collective security under NATO. Unlike the situation in some
allied nations, we do not see any serious signs of flagging
support for the PRT mission. If anything, the upcoming Riga
summit should strengthen Lithuanian enthusiasm.