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Viewing cable 08REYKJAVIK195, ICELAND: PEACEKEEPING TAKES ON A MORE CIVILIAN LOOK AFTER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08REYKJAVIK195 2008-09-09 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXRO8797
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHRK #0195/01 2531700
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 091700Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3787
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0022
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE 0077
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000195 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NB, EUR/RPM, SCA/A 
OSLO FOR DATT 
DOD FOR OSD(P) HARVEY, FENTON 
EUCOM FOR J-5 (ISLAND COMMANDER ICELAND) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2013 
TAGS: MOPS KPKO MARR PGOV PREL AF IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND: PEACEKEEPING TAKES ON A MORE CIVILIAN LOOK AFTER 
REPORT ON 2004 "CHICKEN STREET INCIDENT" 
 
Ref:  06 REYKJAVIK 431 
 
Classified by: Amb. Carol van Voorst for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (U) Summary: On August 26, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ingibjorg 
Solrun Gisladottir announced that Icelandic peacekeepers would only 
in rare circumstances carry arms, and that civilian and military 
tasks would be more clearly separated in future peacekeeping 
assignments.  Gisladottir made the comments in response to an 
MFA-commissioned report on the suicide attack on Icelandic Crisis 
Response Unit (ICRU) peacekeepers in Kabul in October 2004.  The 
Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) will stop manning the seven 
positions where Icelandic peacekeeping forces have had to carry 
weapons in Afghanistan.  Instead, civilian, unarmed specialists will 
be offered for these jobs.  The FM's decision is the latest sign of a 
shift towards development aid that reduces the impact of Icelandic 
contributions to NATO's and ISAF's operations in Afghanistan.  End 
Summary. 
 
2. (U) On October 23, 2004 three Icelandic peacekeepers serving in 
Afghanistan were injured in a suicide bombing at a store on Kabul's 
Chicken Street that killed an 11-year-old Afghan girl and a 
23-year-old American woman.  Icelanders were shocked by the news, as 
much by television images of the peacekeepers wearing military 
uniforms and carrying weapons as by the attack itself.  By and large, 
Icelanders had been under the impression that their peacekeepers were 
fulfilling civilian tasks in Afghanistan, though the Government of 
Iceland had allowed them to carry weapons pursuant to force 
protection requirements and be issued military rank. 
 
3. (U) In April of this year, FM Gisladottir announced that she had 
asked two former Supreme Court justices to investigate the 2004 
attack, with a particular emphasis on the Icelandic Government's 
reaction to the incident.  This new interest came out of renewed 
efforts by opposition members of parliament to press the MFA on the 
issue of compensation for the victims of the attack.  FM Gisladottir 
presented the report at a press conference at the MFA on August 26. 
The main findings included: 
-- Icelandic authorities should better delineate between military and 
civilian tasks fulfilled by the ICRU. 
-- Icelandic authorities have not yet paid disability  benefits to 
two of the three Icelandic peacekeepers who were injured in the 
attack.  The authorities should expedite this process. 
-- In the 2004 incident the Icelandic peacekeepers took appropriate 
advance security precautions and reacted properly in every way. 
-- A detailed set of rules on the specifics of travel in danger zones 
should be drafted.  The set of rules should note whether personal 
travel in danger zones should be authorized. 
-- All decision-making on individual trips by peacekeepers shall be 
meticulous, and the roles and jurisdiction of individual supervisors 
on such trips should be defined. 
-- Risk assessment of individual trips into danger zones should be 
made, and situations that could conceivably give terrorists space and 
opportunity to organize and execute attacks should be avoided. 
-- A systematic plan listing the appropriate responses to incidents, 
such as the one on Chicken Street, should be in place. 
-- The justices criticize Icelandic authorities for not initiating a 
systematic investigation into the incident after it took place. Such 
an investigation could have shed light on how and why the incident 
occurred and what lessons can be learned from it. 
 
4. (U) At the press conference FM Gisladottir stated that the work of 
the ICRU should be strictly limited to civilian tasks.  She said that 
only specially trained people, who are authorized to carry weapons 
when working domestically (e.g., police officers and the Coast 
Guard's Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit), would carry weapons when 
working for the ICRU.  According to Gisladottir, the MFA will stop 
manning the seven positions with ISAF where Icelandic peacekeeping 
forces have had to carry weapons and have been assigned military 
ranks for the period of their assignment.  All seven positions are 
part of Iceland's detachment overseeing NATO operations at Kabul 
International Airport.  Civilian, unarmed specialists will be offered 
for these jobs to the extent that ISAF security regulations permit. 
MFA contacts have clarified that at present, there is no plan to keep 
filling these posts should incumbents be required to carry arms. 
 
5. (U) Reaction to the report was minimal, but, as expected, 
Steingrimur Sigfusson, Chairman of Iceland's leading opposition party 
the Left-Green Movement (LGM), welcomed the Foreign Minister's new 
policy on the ICRU and said it conformed better to the Left-Green 
vision of Icelandic peacekeeping.  Sigfusson bemoaned, however, that 
 
REYKJAVIK 00000195  002 OF 002 
 
 
the FM stopped short of outlawing any carrying of arms by Icelandic 
peacekeepers.  The Campaign Against Warfare (formerly known as the 
Union of Military Base Opponents) said this was an important step 
away from the "militarization of the ICRU." 
 
6.  (U) The lawyer for the three peacekeepers who were injured in the 
attack seized upon the report's recommendations and said his clients 
might sue the Icelandic state if it did not pay their claims for 
disability benefits, including lost wages, medical expenses and 
related pain and suffering.  The three peacekeepers have been engaged 
in a battle with the state as to whether it is liable to pay 
compensation, given that the incident did not take place in Iceland. 
FM Gisladottir said at the press conference that the MFA will take a 
careful look at their case, and see what the ministry can do to 
expedite the processing of the case.  The plaintiffs' lawyer says he 
is optimistic that a solution could be found, and that he was 
scheduled to discuss it at a meeting at the MFA on August 28. 
 
7. (C) The Foreign Minister's announcement was not universally lauded 
within her ministry, as working-level contacts in the ICRU office and 
the Icelandic Defense Agency (which handles operational ties to NATO) 
expressed frustration over the new rules.  Though resigned to 
Gisladottir's views on arming Icelandic peacekeepers, these contacts 
noted to EmbOff that the new rules were overly limiting and hampered 
Iceland's ability to make a worthwhile contribution to peacekeeping 
operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.  Some contacts admitted that 
they will just have to wait "until the next elections" (in 2011) 
before there will be hope of a policy change in the other direction. 
 
8. (C) Comment:  FM Gisladottir's decision to stop manning the seven 
positions in Afghanistan that require arms is in sync with her policy 
of improving the domestic image of the ICRU, and continues a trend 
begun by her immediate predecessor.  Gisladottir's decision now is 
also reminiscent of her move to withdraw Iceland's sole 
representative at NATO Training Mission-Iraq in September 2007, a 
move later lampooned by the U.S. t.v. show "The Daily Show" to some 
embarassment here in Reykjavik.  The FM has been under pressure from 
pacifist elements in her own party as well as the Left-Greens, who 
have long advocated pulling out the ICRU from war zones, such as Iraq 
and Afghanistan.  Those close to Gisladottir may hope that this most 
recent change to the ICRU operating procedures will carve out some 
breathing space on the left.  In April 2007, Gisladottir's 
predecessor, Valgerdur Sverrisdottir, pulled out the Icelandic mobile 
liaison teams working under ISAF at PRT Chaghcharan in Afghanistan's 
Ghor Province.  Gisladottir appears to be set on continuing a similar 
policy.  By restricting the carrying of arms to the small pool of 
those who are previously authorized to do so in Iceland, and try to 
fill civilian positions instead, Gisladottir has shown a clear 
indication of her preference for development aid over 
security-oriented assistance in Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, this 
effort seems blind to the fact that this greatly reduces the 
operational value of Iceland's support to ISAF.  End Comment. 
 
VAN VOORST