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Viewing cable 06KABUL5855, PRT CHAGHCHARAN: PLAN AFOOT TO WITHDRAW ICELANDIC

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KABUL5855 2006-12-15 07:07 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kabul
VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #5855/01 3490717
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150717Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4901
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS 0037
RUEHRK/AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK 0005
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3408
UNCLAS KABUL 005855 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/FO (DAS GASTRIGHT), SCA/A 
STATEPASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/CDHA/DG 
NSC FOR HARRIMAN 
OSD FOR KIMMITT 
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76, POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL MARR AF IC PGOV
SUBJECT: PRT CHAGHCHARAN: PLAN AFOOT TO WITHDRAW ICELANDIC 
MOBILE LIAISON OBSERVATION TEAM FROM CHAGHCHARAN PRT? 
 
1.  (U) This cable contains and action request -- see para 7. 
 
2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Reports are circulating at PRT Chaghcharan 
that the Icelandic government may be preparing to withdraw 
the Icelandic Mobile Patrol Team (Mobile Liaison Observation 
Team/MLOT) from Afghanistan at the end of April.  Because of 
its makeup, special equipment, and experience driving in the 
kind of harsh terrain found in Ghor province, the Icelandic 
team has been especially effective in conducting patrols. 
Moreover, through its reliability, efforts to pass on skills 
to other patrol units, and unique rescue capability, the 
Icelanders have made the PRT as a whole much more effective. 
Because of the potentially serious consequences for PRT 
Chaghcharan, Post suggests Department intervene with 
Icelandic authorities to underscore the value we attach to 
the work of the Icelandic MLOT team and request its mission 
be extended.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3. (SBU) U.S. PolRep in Chaghcharan recently learned from the 
PRT,s Icelandic development officer that her government may 
withdraw the Icelandic Mobile Liaison Observation Team (MLOT) 
at the end of April 2007, when the current MOU with the 
Lithuanian government runs out.  When questioned about this, 
the head of the Icelandic MLOT confirmed the report.  His 
team will rotate out in February, and its successor is 
scheduled to remain only two months, instead of the usual 
four.  Speculation at PRT Chaghcharan is that the new 
Icelandic foreign minister may be looking to remove the issue 
of Iceland's &military8 mission in Afghanistan in advance 
of upcoming national elections and so may be considering 
replacing the MLOT with police trainers to give the mission a 
more civilian face or redefining the MLOT,s mission as 
solely to support development activities. 
 
4. (SBU) The prospect of Iceland withdrawing or redefining 
its MLOT raises serious concerns for us.  The Lithuanian PRT 
commander shares our concerns and is anxious for the 
Icelandic team to continue in its present form.  Certainly 
the Lithuanians, Croats, and Danes all conduct valuable 
patrols in their assigned districts, but the Icelandic team 
is unique in the resources and skills it brings to its 
designated patrols.  The Icelanders, and only the Icelanders, 
have truly all-weather vehicles (Nissan Patrols) capable of 
operating throughout mountainous and often snow-bound Ghor. 
They alone have the 388 (summer) and 448 (winter) tires 
that allow the vehicles to handle the province's extremely 
rough terrain (there are no paved roads anywhere in Ghor). 
The Icelanders are particularly adept at using their GPS and 
onboard laptops to chart their course, allowing them to 
travel without difficulty even at night.  The makeup of their 
team, consisting of &civilian specialists,8 also gives them 
special advantages.  The current team, for example, includes 
two counter-terrorism policemen, a search and rescue worker, 
skilled drivers, a paramedic, and a mechanic (who 
participates in the patrols).  The result to date has been 
remarkable reliability for the team's missions, and 
particularly valuable and insightful reporting. 
 
5. (SBU) Beyond the value they add through their patrols, 
however, the Icelanders contribute in unique ways to the PRT 
as a whole )- something that causes us to be especially 
concerned at the prospect of their departure.  A major 
problem for all the other patrols is a lack of experience at 
driving under the harsh mountain conditions of Ghor.  The 
Icelanders suggest the terrain in Ghor resembles in many 
respects the conditions they face at home.  Unlike the other 
elements, the Icelandic team is used to off-road driving up 
steep inclines and fording rivers.  Importantly, they make 
every effort to pass on to the other elements their special 
driving skills.  (The Icelanders in Chaghcharan argue that 
turning over their vehicles to other PRT elements at the end 
of April, as some in Reykjavik appear to be suggesting, would 
result in a waste of the major investment Iceland has made in 
bringing the vehicles to Afghanistan because, without the 
corresponding special driving skills and ride-along mechanic, 
they predict the vehicles would soon become as vulnerable to 
 
problems as the rest of the PRT's vehicle fleet.)  Moreover, 
with winter just now settling in, the Icelanders have already 
had occasion to rescue other units, stranded vehicles, and 
as conditions worsen, they have been paired up increasingly 
with other units as a safeguard )- a bit to the frustration 
of the Icelanders themselves. 
 
6. (SBU) Both the PRT,s Icelandic development officer and 
MLOT chief express frustration that the message of the MLOT's 
true mission does not appear to be getting back to the public 
at home (a major Icelandic newspaper reportedly declined to 
publish an account of the MLOT's work written by a former 
team chief).  To characterize the Icelandic MLOT as a 
&military8 mission is largely a misnomer, they insist.  The 
team's rules of engagement do not allow it to participate in 
combat except in self-defense, its members are not part of 
the PRT,s quick response force, and they do not perform 
guard duty.  The Icelandic MLOT chief characterizes his 
unit's real mission as to give the people of its assigned 
districts a greater sense of security by its presence, to 
find out their needs, concerns, and ideas, and to feed these 
back into the reconstruction effort.  He acknowledges that 
Iceland has the resources to contribute to the PRT's effort 
in Ghor in many ways, be it with its police trainers, health 
care workers, or engineers; but, he argues, the core mission 
of the PRT is performing patrols and his team does them 
uniquely well and makes an all but irreplaceable contribution 
to enabling the other elements to perform theirs effectively 
too.  Whatever else Iceland might decide to contribute, he is 
distraught at the potential discarding of what he sees as a 
mission genuinely helpful to Afghanistan and its ultimate 
development.  Both we and the PRT commander share his 
concern. 
 
7. (SBU) Action Request: Given the particularly valuable 
contribution to PRT Chaghcharan provided by the Icelandic 
Mobile Liaison Observation Team and the serious downside ) 
including added burden on others -- its withdrawal from 
patrol work would present, Post requests Department consider 
asking Embassy Reykjavik to contact appropriate Icelandic 
officials to underscore our appreciation for the special work 
being done by the Icelandic MLOT in Ghor and to request that 
Reykjavik seriously consider extending its mission. 
NEUMANN