Viewing cable 09VILNIUS594

09VILNIUS5942009-11-06 16:03:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
DE RUEHVL #0594/01 3101603
O 061603Z NOV 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 VILNIUS 000594 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/06/2019 
Classified By: Ambassador Derse for reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY:  Following our mid-October visit to 
Afghanistan to review Lithuania's ISAF contributions, Foreign 
Minister Usackas is seeking to inject much-needed new 
organization, energy and financing into Lithuania's efforts 
to support development in Ghor Province, where Lithuania 
leads a 200 member PRT.  Lithuania is under severe economic 
pressure, with a likely 15-20 percent decline in GDP and the 
2009 defense budget slashed by 19 percent compared to the 
previous year. Nevertheless, senior GOL officials underscore 
that Afghanistan is and will remain their top security 
priority, despite financial constraints; MOD is now planning, 
for example, to offer police and garrison Operational Mentor 
and Liaison Teams (OMLTs). MFA's new effort to exert stronger 
leadership on development, as well, will make the GOL a more 
effective partner. Based on my visit to Ghor with the FonMin, 
I believe the GOL is making an extraordinary effort under 
severe financial constraints to support an important mission 
in Afghanistan. Lithuania is grateful for U.S. support 
provided to date.  I would like to ask colleagues in 
Washington and Kabul to consider the suggestions below to 
further assist this small but committed ally as it 
intensifies its development effort in Afghanistan. Such 
cooperation will pay dividends not only in Ghor, but more 
broadly, as a concrete illustration of the value we attach to 
Lithuania's continued commitment and to our partnership in 
¶2. (C) Shortly after presenting my credentials to President 
Grybauskaite on October 14, I traveled to Afghanistan with 
FonMin Usackas and a GOL-hosted delegation including senior 
MFA and defense officials, parliamentarians (including the 
leader of the opposition), Lithuanian journalists and the 
Greek Ambassador to Lithuania.  Greece is a potential new 
donor for development projects in Ghor Province.  The visit 
was Usackas' first to Afghanistan. Widely publicized in 
Lithuania, it was clearly intended to build public and 
political support for Lithuania's Afghan mission at a time of 
severe economic crisis here, and specifically to inject new 
momentum into the GOL's development efforts in Ghor, for 
which MFA is responsible. During an intense three days, the 
delegation saluted the Lithuanian Special Forces (SOF) 
serving in Regional Command South, consulted in Kabul with 
GIRoA officials, representatives of potential donor countries 
and UNAMA's Kai Eide on development projects and visited 
Chaghcharan, the capital of Ghor, where the PRT is located. 
¶3. (C) Based on conversations in Vilnius since the visit, the 
trip impressed on Usackas the need for greater coordination 
and follow up by MFA with respect to the development aspects 
of the PRT's mission. The Defense Minister and head of the 
Special Operations Forces commented separately to me that one 
of the most valuable outcomes of the trip was Usackas' 
realization that the mission in Afghanistan "is not just 
military."  Usackas himself recently confided that he now 
understands that MFA needs a single point of contact, 
responsible for all aspects of MFA's lead on development, 
from conception through implementation of projects, to carry 
out its responsibilities effectively. He plans to appoint a 
senior MFA official, Chief Counselor Valdemaras Sarapinas, as 
the lead on Afghanistan.  Usackas is also intensifying 
efforts to reach out to new donors for financial support, 
securing a Kazakh pledge to support education, likely Greek 
and Japanese contributions to the provincial hospital, and an 
Afghan contribution for the airport. Vilnius plans a Regional 
Command West Conference in Vilnius December 8-9 and a follow 
on Donors' Conference in Kabul and Ghor in Spring 2010 (exact 
date is TBD). 
¶4. (C) Ghor is the third poorest province in Afghanistan and 
has severe development needs. While in Chaghcharan, I was 
struck by the open frustration expressed by local officials 
at what they see as the minimal attention Ghor receives from 
the international community and the central government -- 
despite Ghor's relative stability, a population opposed to 
the insurgency, and a strong decline in poppy cultivation. As 
just one example, between 2002 and 2008 USAID invested $21M 
in Ghor, compared to investing $214M in its neighboring 
province Herat. While there are undoubtedly reasons for the 
disparity, local officials in Ghor, nonetheless, are openly 
envious of funding provided to Herat; some ask whether they 
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have to "start blowing things up" to attract similar 
international attention. 
¶5. (C) Lithuania's intention to do more on development, 
therefore, is necessary and laudable.  The fact remains, 
however, that as the smallest NATO member to be leading a 
PRT, and a country very hard hit by the economic crisis, 
Lithuania lacks deep civilian development/donor expertise and 
has relatively little development funding available.   With 
the projected decline in Lithuania's GDP by 15-20 percent 
this year, the development budget, never large, has shrunk to 
USD 1.2M. 
¶6. (C) At the same time, the GOL is making extraordinary 
sacrifices to maintain its PRT and SOF in Afghanistan. In 
2009 Lithuania's defense budget decreased by 19% compared to 
the previous year due to the economic crisis.  The Lithuanian 
military transitioned to a fully professional force as of 
July 2009, however the budget is so bleak that it has been 
forced to temporarily cut the salaries of new privates and 
sailors to below the poverty level, with new privates 
receiving only 800 litas (USD 345) per month, 75% below the 
planned salary of 3400 litas (USD 1465) per month.  It is not 
an exaggeration to say that the GOL is stretching its budget 
to the limit to fulfill its commitment to help stabilize and 
develop Ghor. Moreover, despite these pressures, the MOD is 
seriously looking for ways it can do more for example, by 
offering a P-OMLT (Police Operational Mentor and Liaison 
Teams) in 2010 and possibly a garrison OMLT in Afghanistan 
¶7. (U) In the view of USG colleagues working most closely 
with Lithuanian colleagues on the ground in Ghor, the GOL is 
doing an excellent job with severely limited resources and 
experience, is coordinating with other partners increasingly 
well, and "we should support them 110 percent."  I share 
their view, after visiting the PRT myself.  The GOL, for its 
part, welcomes USG advice and support. 
¶8. (C) Lithuania's success, of course, is also our success 
and Afghanistan's success.  The Embassy team and I plan to 
make it a priority to take advantage of Usackas' new 
activism, intensifying our engagement with the GOL in Vilnius 
in close coordination with you and other USG colleagues, to 
support and strengthen the GOL's effort. In addition, we will 
work closely with the new Dutch Ambassador to Lithuania, who 
formerly headed the Dutch PRT in Regional Command South and 
recently offered to share his expertise and cooperate closely 
with the USG and GOL to support Lithuania's efforts in Ghor. 
Usackas has welcomed such collaboration. 
¶9. (C) Given the GOL's new focus on development, I would ask 
that the USG consider the following possible steps to further 
assist as GOL representatives work with international 
colleagues and local officials in Ghor to develop a 
reconstruction plan for the province, and as MFA and MOD 
search for sponsors to supplement their limited development 
budget.  For example: 
-- On December 8-9, 2009, the GOL will host an RC-West 
Conference in Vilnius and will discuss development needs in 
Ghor.  We will work with the GOL, with the advice of our USG 
colleagues in Kabul and Ghor, to help focus the conference on 
the crucial issues and concrete steps to produce results. The 
GOL seeks a high-level USG representative from Washington. 
MFA is expecting that NATO will send a representative at the 
Deputy Assistant Secretary General level.  We understand that 
Washington is now considering a strong USG delegation, 
possibly led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (S/SRAP) 
Paul Jones. We greatly appreciate this support and hope this 
plan will be finalized soon; strong USG representation will 
spur the engagement of others. 
-- In Spring 2010 the GOL will hold a Ghor Donors' Conference 
in Kabul and in Ghor.  We would like to offer strong USG 
support to help plan and coordinate the event, and ask that 
Embassy Kabul appoint a POC with whom we can work on this, 
and on engagement with the GOL on development in Ghor more 
-- The Government of Croatia recently communicated its 
intention to withdraw its 35 troops from the Ghor PRT in May 
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2010 in order to consolidate Croatian forces elsewhere in 
Afghanistan.  The GOL is asking for our engagement to either 
convince the Croatians not to go (they have offered the 
Croatians a co-lead in the PRT) or to help to identify 
another partner. We would appreciate Washington's/Embassy 
Zagreb's support in approaching the Croatians to find a 
positive way forward, or in identifying and soliciting new 
partners to fill the gap if the Croatians leave. 
-- The GOL is looking for civilian experts to assist with 
capacity building in Ghor province including prosecutors, 
doctors, engineers and other subject matter experts. Can we 
consider providing such experts as specific needs are 
-- The GOL is promoting three priority infrastructure 
projects for Ghor: renovation of the Chaghcharan airfield, 
construction of the road between Herat and Kabul and building 
an orphanage/education center in Ghor.  Embassy Vilnius will 
continue to work with the GOL to identify and approach 
potential donors.  USAID recently announced a welcome $6M 
challenge grant to fund three airport renovations (including 
Chaghcharan) and we understand that the GIRoA will provide 
the matching funds to launch the project.  Can we work with a 
designated POC at Embassy Kabul to find a way to liaise more 
regularly with the GOL and GIRoA to ensure sound design and 
early funding for these key projects? 
-- The GOL is promoting several humanitarian projects in 
Ghor, including construction of a new hospital, a top 
priority for the local administration and population. Can we 
explore ways we can support this effort? 
-- Agriculture development assistance is urgently needed. 
Local farmers have moved away from poppy production and it is 
critical to provide support for licit agricultural production 
as a disincentive to return to poppy production.  We 
understand a USDA expert will soon join the Ghor PRT.  Can 
the USG also provide technical support for livestock 
management, including an inoculation program, and to 
establish a veterinary clinic and capacity for mobile clinics 
to service the district? 
-- Local officials need assistance to develop a market plan 
for local products and resources such as mineral deposits, 
hand-woven carpets, wood carvings and metal works.  Local 
entrepreneurs need access to micro-loans to develop business 
opportunities. Can we propose a plan to work with the GOL to 
support such strategic planning for the economy? 
-- The Deputy Governor of Ghor underscored the critical need 
for energy infrastructure, which would have a significant 
payoff for standards of hygiene and living as well as 
economic activity. Chaghcharan has only four hours of 
electricity per day. With three rivers in the province, 
inexpensive micro dams could expand Ghor's very limited 
energy infrastructure to provide electricity to schools, 
homes and shops. 
-- Young people in Ghor have limited prospects for the 
future. 65% of Ghor residents are unemployed and 78% are 
illiterate.  Many young people travel to bordering provinces 
to look for work and are vulnerable to recruitment by the 
insurgency.  Can we offer new support for programs to engage 
local youth and offer opportunities for education and 
¶10. (C) I know that efforts have been made in the past to 
help the Lithuanians succeed on development in Ghor, and that 
there have been frustrations with GOL follow up. I want to 
offer my assistance and that of my team to do everything 
possible to guide and troubleshoot with the GOL in Vilnius to 
produce results.  We are optimistic that with the GOL's new 
focus on development, we can make progress.  We look forward 
to working with an appropriate POC at Embassy Kabul and in 
Washington soon to focus on closer coordination with the GOL. 
 Such cooperation will pay dividends not only for our mission 
in Afghanistan, but also in terms of providing concrete 
reassurance that we value Lithuania's partnership and 
continued commitment and contribution in Afghanistan under 
very tough domestic circumstances. 
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