C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LISBON 000233
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/23/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS PO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR HOSTS ISAF MEETING IN LISBON
Classified By: POL/ECON COUNSELOR RICHARD REITER, FOR 1.4B, D.
Â¶1. (C) Ambassador Stephenson on April 22 hosted a meeting of
several ISAF-country ambassadors in Lisbon to review the
outcomes of the recent NATO Summit and to assess strategies
for encouraging the Portuguese government to continue to
contribute to ISAF in a meaningful way. Present were
Lisbon-based ambassadors from Australia, Denmark, France,
Italy, and Poland. Ambassador Stephenson opened the
discussion with a review of recent developments including the
NATO Summit and the new USG strategy towards Afghanistan and
Pakistan. He noted that at the Summit, Portuguese PM
Socrates committed to doubling the Portuguese presence on the
ground in Afghanistan, but it is now clear that the GOP had
not thought through what form this deployment might take.
Â¶2. (C) Portugal is scheduled to have about 150 personnel in
Afghanistan in the coming months (2 OMLTs, 1 medical team, 1
C-130 with ground crew) when they fulfill their current
pledges, and we are hearing speculation from senior
Portuguese officials that they may double this number by
deploying the QRF company that they withdrew from Afghanistan
in August 2008. Notionally, the company would partner with
the British in Helmand Province and operate without caveats,
a possible deployment timeframe would be early 2010.
Military sources tell us that the Portuguese CHOD has been
tasked to provide an options paper for the new deployment
Â¶3. (C) The Italian Ambassador commented that Italy will host
the G-8 Foreign Ministers' meeting in Trieste on 25-27 June
and plans to make Afghanistan the primary agenda topic.
Italy is now circulating a Food-For-Thought paper suggesting
the following Afghanistan-related issues be raised: border
management, drug trafficking and criminal activities, social
and economic development, and people-to-people contacts.
Italy, which has responsibility for border areas in western
Afghanistan, will welcome Iran's engagement at the G-8
meeting, and will also invite Afghanistan, Pakistan, India,
China, Turkey, UAE, Egypt, and relevant IOs such as the UN.
Â¶4. (C) The French Ambassador took note of the fact that in
many of his recent public remarks, Portuguese FM Amado has
discussed a "South Atlantic Alliance" to somehow mirror NATO,
without clarifying what he means. The French assess that
with Portuguese historical interests in Brazil, Angola, and
elsewhere that Portugal is "expressing its geopolitical
identity" in a way that hints at a Portuguese leadership role
without requiring any real commitments. The French have
concluded that "this is a project that we can let evolve".
Â¶5. (C) The Danish Ambassador commented on Portugal's tight
budget, growing tighter in the current economic climate. In
the past, Portugal has listed funding problems among the
reasons for not making more contributions to ISAF, and this
situation is not going to improve in the short term.
Â¶6. (C) The Australian and Polish Ambassadors made similar
comments about the Portuguese non-transparent decision-making
process. Portuguese officials will give widely different
explanations for why decisions are reached, making it
difficult for us to work with them to resolve obstacles. The
Australian Ambassador also noted that Canberra and Lisbon
share a commitment in East Timor that is sometimes
underestimated by NATO. Portugal has several hundred GNR
(paramilitary police) in East Timor now, and given Portugal's
view that the UN withdrawal from East Timor in 2002 was
premature, Portugal is firmly committed to keeping its own
forces there as long as it deems necessary. Given a choice
between East Timor and ISAF, the Portuguese would assess East
Timor as the more important mission, said the Australian
Â¶7. (C) The Polish Ambassador noted that there is broad
support among Poles for the ISAF mission, allowing Warsaw
recently to pledge greater contributions. But she noted that
there are increasing questions among the Polish press and
public about whether Poland's contributions are truly
appreciated by NATO Allies. Clearly, she hinted, Poland
could use a few more public kudos from the Allies.
Â¶8. (C) The Polish Ambassador also commented that Portuguese
officials told her that they are sometimes confused by
conflicting messages and force requests from the US and UK.
We responded that Portugal is well aware of ISAF's needs and
shortfalls because it sits in every NATO committee meeting
where these are discussed. The Portuguese "confusion" may be
Lisbon's way of delaying making firm decisions on
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Â¶9. (C) COMMENT. The Portuguese are good friends and allies,
but can sometimes be challenging interlocutors on Afghanistan
and related security issues. Their budget constraints and
lack of internal coordination make it all the more imperative
that we and the other Allies do our homework and be well
coordinated before approaching Lisbon. For example, we plan
to work more closely with the UK embassy, in light of the
comments raised in para 8 above, and we welcome Washington's
continued efforts to ensure that there is no daylight between
and among Allies and NATO HQ when making demarches and asks.
Similarly, these concerns only highlight the value of these
informal ambassadorial meetings.
For more reporting from Embassy Lisbon and information about Portugal,
please see our Intelink site: