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06ATHENS338 2006-02-06 14:33:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Athens
Cable title:  

GREEKS CONSIDERING ISAF PRT, BUT MAY NEED HELP

Tags:   MARR PREL GR AF NATOAFGHAN 
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1. (C) Summary. Greek leaders know that ISAF's Stage III
expansion will increase pressure on them to increase their
contribution to NATO's efforts in Afghanistan. Senior
officials are contemplating offering to assume command of a
PRT in the north, but are uneasy about the domestic political
consequences if Greeks troops suffer casualties and have
little appetite for explaining to ordinary Greeks why what
happens in Kabul matters in Athens. Nevertheless, Greece
wants to improve its standing as an ally, and can likely be
persuaded to take part in a PRT. We will continue to lay the
groundwork for a positive decision, while looking for an
appropriate time to push for a "yes" at the political
decision some time this spring. Greek decisionmaking may be
affected by personnel issues, with the Ministers of Foreign
Affairs and Defense possible targets of a rumored cabinet
reshuffle. End Summary.



2. (C) In recent months, Embassy officers have urged senior
MFA and MOD officials, including the Defense Minister and his
diplomatic advisor, senior officers in the Hellenic National
Defense General Staff (HNDGS), and staff of the Foreign
Ministry's NATO Directorate, to consider Greece taking
command of an ISAF PRT in northern Afghanistan. In November,
HNDGS Policy Planning Chief Ioannis Albertos told DATT and
poloff that his office had studied the military requirements
of staffing a PRT, and was ready to proceed. It is clear,
though, that a decision on a PRT will be made at the very
highest levels in the government. In a mid-January meeting
with Ambassador, FM Molyviatis was careful not to exclude the
possibility but said he was not yet able to deliver.



3. (C) Officials attribute their unwillingness to allow
Greek troops to serve outside of Kabul to their fear that the
popular reaction to Greek casualties would make it impossible
to maintain even the current level of contribution in
Afghanistan. It is hard to imagine the kind of open,
vigorous debate on a deployment to Afghanistan that took
place in the Netherlands (reftel) occurring in Greece. While
both major political parties (quietly) support ISAF,
virtually no Greek politician is prepared to explain to the
Greek public why what happens in Kabul matters in Athens.
Instead, the government has pursued a policy of incrementally
increasing its contributions to ISAF operations in the
capital while avoiding any publicity of those contributions.
For example, in a December meeting with PolCouns, DMOD
Michaliolakos appeared taken aback by the suggestion that his
Ministry help Greek media cover the "good news" story of
Greek doctors treating ordinary Afghans at the Role 2 Medical
Facility at the Kabul airport or Greek construction engineers
rebuilding schools in the capital.



4. (C) One way to focus Greek thinking would be to walk
policy-level officials through the specifics of what assuming
command of a PRT might entail. The upcoming visit to
Washington of a Greek delegation led by MFA NATO Division
Director Zographos (septel) provides an opportunity to cover
a range of issues, including, first and foremost, a rundown
of where and when a Greek PRT might be needed. Other topics
of interest to the Greeks would be; specifics on what running
a PRT has cost other countries; information on the kinds of
non-military personnel needed in a PRT; Allies Greece might
approach to cooperate with in a PRT; the kinds of resources
the United States has provided Lithuania or other relatively
small countries that have taken the lead on a PRT, and; an
offer to coordinate a discussion of lessons learned with
these or other PRT-lead nations. Additionally, it would be
useful to give the Greeks a sense of whether NATO has
identified a follow-on to the Greek Role 2 Medical Facility
in Kabul, or whether the Greeks will be asked to stay after
their 18-month commitment is up.



5. (C) Moving the government beyond its intense risk
aversion is one of this mission's highest priority goals.
Our long term PD strategy includes explaining why Greece has
an interest in NATO's success and getting out the "good news"
of Greece's role in ISAF. In the shorter term, we will
continue to move Athens towards "yes" on a PRT by continuing
to raise the idea at lower levels, while looking for an
appropriate high-level occasion (on the margins of the NATO
informal Foreign Ministerial in Sofia, the HLCC in Athens, or
the visit of another senior USG official to Athens) to clinch
a deal. We understand that discussion are underway with
Hungary about replacing the Dutch in Pol-e Khomri, the PRT
most likely to change hands in the near future. If the
Hungarians do step forward, we should still press for a Greek
political commitment in principle now, with discussions on
the time and place of the deployment to follow.
RIES