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Viewing cable 09BERLIN1108, GERMANY: POLITICAL FALL-OUT OVER KUNDUZ AIR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BERLIN1108 2009-09-10 06:06 2010-12-02 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Berlin
Appears in these articles:
http://www.spiegel.de
VZCZCXRO2166
OO RUEHSL
DE RUEHRL #1108/01 2530651
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 100651Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5136
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 0531
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0657
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDRUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BERLIN 001108

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/09/2019
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS NATO PGOV AF GM
SUBJECT: GERMANY: POLITICAL FALL-OUT OVER KUNDUZ AIR
STRIKES CONTAINED -- FOR NOW

REF: A. BERLIN 970 
B. BERLIN 837

Classified By: DCM GREG DELAWIE. REASONS: 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Chancellery is confident that Chancellor
Merkel's policy statement to the Bundestag on September 8 has
succeeded -- at least for now -- in settling the domestic
political controversy surrounding the September 4 air strikes
against two hijacked fuel tankers in Kunduz. Ironically, the
Greens called for the special parliamentary session in a
clear attempt to embarrass the government and to make a
campaign issue out of the controversy, but Merkel used it to
her advantage to elicit support for the German deployment in
Afghanistan by all the major parties, save for the Left
Party, which has always opposed the mission. While it had
been expected that internal critics would seize on the
bombing to score political points against the Chancellor and
Defense Minister Jung, the Chancellery, MFA and MOD all
expressed dismay that their closest Allies -- especially the
French -- had made a rush to judgment. Officials at both the
MFA and MOD also expressed disappointment that despite
Germany's excellent track record in avoiding civilian
casualties, COMISAF GEN McChrystal, in their view, quickly
assumed the worst about German actions in this case. The MOD
emphasized that while everything was calm now, this issue
would need to be carefully managed in the coming weeks to
prevent it from becoming a source of anti-Americanism. Both
MFA and Chancellery officials emphasized that the joint
German-UK-France proposal for an international conference on
Afghanistan was not made in reaction to the Kunduz event and
is not a cover for trying to secure a date certain for
withdrawal. END SUMMARY.

Chancellor's statement

2. (C) In her policy statement to the Bundestag on September
8, Chancellor Merkel appealed to ISAF allies as well as
critics at home to reserve judgment regarding the September 4
decision by the German PRT commander in Kunduz to call in air
strikes against two fuel tankers that had been hijacked by
insurgents. At the same time, she promised a full inquiry
into the matter and gave assurances that Germany took the
issue of collateral damage very seriously. "Even the death
of one innocent person is one too many," she stressed. In
retreating from the initial stand taken by Defense Minister
Jung -- who had insisted that only insurgents had been killed
in the nighttime attack -- she succeeded in deflating some of
the early indignation over the incident, since Jung's
statements seemed to defy clear evidence to the contrary.
All the major parties, with the exception of the Left Party,
which opposes all Bundeswehr deployments, used the special
Bundestag session to reaffirm their support for the
Afghanistan mission and to reject calls for withdrawal.

Chancellery: "astonished" at allies' reaction

3. xxxxxxxxxxxx

Mod: jung's initial approach was wrong

4. xxxxxxxxxxxx



5. xxxxxxxxxxxx

6. xxxxxxxxxxxx

7. xxxxxxxxxxxx

Comment

8. (C) With only three weeks before German national
elections, it goes without saying that the Kunduz incident
comes at a very politically sensitive time. Fortunately, the
Chancellor, in her policy statement to the Bundestag, has
been able to limit the damage to the delicate political

Berlin 00001108 003 of 003


consensus here in favor of the Afghanistan deployment. She
has successfully rallied all the main political parties in
rejecting calls for withdrawal. The hope is that the Allies
and others will refrain from any further premature judgments
or speculation about what happened in Kunduz, which could be
exploited by the Left Party and other Afghanistan opponents
for electoral advantage.

9. (C) The Kunduz incident ironically also comes at a time
when the views of the United States and Germany regarding the
approach to Afghanistan have never been closer. All of our
interlocutors warmly welcome COMISAF's new counterinsurgency
guidance, which emphasizes protecting the Afghan population
over chasing down and killing insurgents. They view the new
U.S. emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties as moving
toward a position they have long advocated. At the same
time, they now acknowledge that their own forces, in view of
the deteriorating security situation in the north, have to be
more active in providing security and being willing to use
force as appropriate. Their new rules of engagement (ref A)
have gone a long way in this regard. Along similar lines,
the old debate between the U.S. and Germany on the best way
to train Afghan police -- i.e., the U.S. supposedly stressing
speed and quantity versus the Germans stressing quality -- is
over. The Germans have completely signed up to the U.S.
focused district development (FDD) police training program
and are moving toward to taking responsibility for FDD
throughout the north (ref B).

10. (C) It is this convergence of views, and their belief
that they are one of our most reliable Allies in Afghanistan,
that makes the Germans so sensitive to any perceived U.S.
criticism of their actions. They feel that their careful and
dependable management of the north -- while acknowledging the
growing problems with the insurgency there -- have earned
them the benefit of the doubt when incidents like the fuel
tanker bombing in Kunduz occur. As we go forward with our
plans to deploy some 300 U.S. Special Forces in Mazar-e
Sharif to assist the Germans in meeting the growing
insurgency threat, we will want to be careful not to give the
impression that we do not have faith in the Germans to do
what is necessary to continue to secure the north as they
have been for almost six years. While the Germans have been
consistently reluctant about deploying combat troops outside
the north, they have been equally consistent in ensuring that
all the troop and equipment needs in the north -- including
OMLTs for the training of the Afghan National Army (ANA) --
are fulfilled. It is our interest for the Germans to
continue to feel "ownership" of this part of the country.
Murphy