WikiLeaks cable: CDR CENTCOM visit to New Zealand

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

February 28, 2006
CDR CENTCOM visit to New Zealand

date:2006-02-28T01:37:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:06WELLINGTON155
destination:VZCZCXYZ0002 RR RUEHWEB DE RUEHWL #0155/01 0590137 ZNY
CCCCC ZZH R 280137Z FEB 06 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE
WASHDC 2445 INFO RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM
MACDILL AFB FL RUEKJCS/JCS WASHINGTON DC RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA
4315
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000155

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP
OSD FOR LIZ PHU
PACOM FOR ADMIRAL FALLON

E.O. 12958: D...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000155

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP
OSD FOR LIZ PHU
PACOM FOR ADMIRAL FALLON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/28/2013
TAGS: PREL, MNUC, NZ
SUBJECT: CDR CENTCOM VISIT TO NEW ZEALAND

Classified By: Classified By: DCM Ambassador William P. McCormick; Reas
on 1.4 (A and D)

1. (C) Summary: General Abizaid's February 23-25 visit to
New Zealand came one month after Admiral Fallon's visit amid
high media interest in the bilateral relationship. The
General met with Prime Minister Clark, Defense Minister Goff
and Foreign Minister Winston Peters, as well as with Chief of
Defense Force Bruce Ferguson and other Defense Force (NZDF)
officials. He also toured some of the local Wellington sites
and was received by a traditional Maori welcome ceremony upon
arrival. There was a short photo opportunity with the Prime
Minister prior to the meeting and a small media availability
at the NZ Defense HQ. The General met with the NZ military
service chiefs, participated in a government roundtable and
gave the CENTCOM "Long War" presentation to several hundred
NZDF personnel. Despite a minor flap over press arrangements
before the visit, neither the PM nor other Kiwi officials
tried to hijack the visit to claim all was well with the
U.S.-NZ relationship. The Embassy considers this a victory.
End Summary.

2. (C) General Abizaid's February 23-25 visit to New Zealand
came on the heels of Admiral Fallon's visit last month. But
unlike ADM Fallon, who is the regional U.S. commander for New
Zealand and has operational responsibilities here, GEN
Abizaid's status as a guest in the PACOM AOR called for a
much lower-key media stance. CENTCOM's visit was hosted by
outgoing Chief of Defense Force Bruce Ferguson, who is due to
retire in April. The General was introduced to and had
meetings with the candidates vying for AM Ferguson's position
-- Army Chief MAJGEN Jerry Mateparae, AF Chief AVM John
Hamilton, Navy Chief RADM David Ledson, Joint Forces CDR
MAJGEN Lou Gardiner and Vice CDF AVM David Bamfield.

3. (C) The meeting with Prime Minister Helen Clark went very
well. Several days before the visit, however, the PM's Press
Secretary stated PM's desire to do a full-on press conference

SIPDIS
after the office call with TV cameras, radio, etc. We pushed
back with CENTCOM's request, noting that such high visibility
would be inappropriate since the General was in NZ at the
invitation of the NZDF and has no operational
responsibilities in this region. After a few high-level
phone calls it was agreed that there would be a photo
availability prior to the meeting and no press conference.
We were leery because the PM has previously used
opportunities such as this for domestic political purposes or
to claim the U.S. and New Zealand have completely moved
beyond the anti-nuclear legislation disagreement. However,
at the office call, the PM immediately ushered in the General
into her office after the photo opportunity. The press did
not wait in ambush after the meeting. (Comment: While
negotiations over the media coverage got quite heated at
times, this event shows that a firm stance by the Embassy
will, in the end, be respected. End comment)

4. (C) After a brief welcome, the meeting started with the
General thanking the PM for NZ's contribution to Afghanistan
(PRT and Special Forces) and Iraq (Combat Engineers). He
said the PRT in Bamyan is a good model to follow and the NZ
troops were very effective in dealing with the locals. He
pointed out that the new PRTs being established by the
Australians and the Dutch (under NATO) will be challenged by
the Taliban to test their resolve. The General also said the
British troops soon deploying to Helmand Province would be
challenged. Their opposition will most likely be drug lords,
however, not the Taliban. Helmand Province is a prime poppy
growing area and has, up to this point, remained relatively
unchallenged by any authoritarian entity. The PM thanked the
General for his comments and said that because NZ troops are
a multicultural and diverse group and have deployed to places
like East Timor and Bosnia, locals tend to like NZ troops.
The PM then asked about the how attacks have changed. The
General replied that in Afghanistan, the Taliban-Al Q'aida
forces have shifted to a doctrine of IEDs, suicide bombers,
and assassination of local government leaders because
military-style attacks on U.S. military forces just don't
work. The General also told the PM that the enemy foot
soldiers and suicide attackers are not Arab -- they are
mostly Pakistanis (Pashtuns or Punjabis). This differs from
Iraq where significant portions are foreign Arabs. The PM
asked if there was evidence of Taliban-Al Q'aida forces
working on nuclear or biological weapons and the General
responded Coalition forces found evidence of attempts to
weaponize anthrax in the enemy's possession. That effort was
stopped but it was important to keep the enemy on the run so
they couldn't regroup and develop other sinister weapons or
tactics. He told the PM that we shouldn't underestimate the
enemy's ability to survive and they may take harbor in
uncontrolled areas of Somalia, Kenya and the Horn of Africa
as well as Indonesia, Philippines and Southern Thailand. He
reiterated to the PM that Al Q'aida must not be allowed to
become "mainstream" and used the analogy of Hitler in the
1920s and 1930s. The PM said NZ has been pleased to provide
military support and that she expected continued deployments
of the PRT past the Sept 2006 deployment end date. That
decision will be made soon by the government and she doesn't
expect the U.S. government will be disappointed by the
outcome.

5. (C) Defense Minister Phil Goff discussed many of the same
issues with the General. Goff mentioned to the General (as he
does with virtually all U.S. officials) that he had two
nephews that were West Point graduates and felt a closeness
to the U.S. Army. Goff told the General that he could expect
a positive outcome on redeploying the PRT past Sept 2006 and
was reasonably assured the SAS (Special Forces) would deploy
again after regeneration. The 65 SAS troops returned to NZ
in Nov 2005 and aren't expected to be able to redeploy in
2006 due to training, attrition and other internal NZ Army
issues. The General told Goff that even though NATO is
taking over deployments in parts of Afghanistan, the U.S.
will continue to be the largest contributor to NATO forces.
The General continued by saying that Pakistan will eventually
be threatened by the Taliban so we need all the help
available to stabilize the region. The General told Goff
that patrol assets from NZ (P-3s or Frigates) were always
welcome and definitely helpful. Goff responded by saying it
was always a battle with the Finance Minister on deploying
platform assets to that region but he would continue to press
for this. When Goff asked about Iran, the General replied
that the current Iranian administration is a difficult one to
deal with and that we shouldn't take the Iranian President's
comments lightly. As political pressure mounts on Iran, they
will attempt distractions, but the more political pressure
from more countries that is applied, the better the eventual
outcome will be. The General was asked about possible civil
war in Iraq due to the recent mosque bombing. The General
said the leaders in Iraq are doing a great job trying to
maintain the peace. Even Al Sistani was promoting calm. The
General said there were many more people in Iraq who wanted
peace and stability than want a civil war. The general then
answered questions about Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and Hamas.
Goff ended the meeting with the comment that NZ will watch
the Israel-Palestine issue closely.

6. (C) General Abizaid then met with Foreign Minister
Winston Peters. Peters started the meeting by saying his
recent comments on the U.S. lack of recognition of NZ
contributions in the South Pacific were "misread." Peters
said that the South Pacific falls under the radar screen and
recognition of NZ efforts were overshadowed by other world
events. The General responded by defining CENTCOM's area of
responsibility, which does not include the Pacific, and
thanked New Zealand for the SAS and PRT deployments. Peters
said the General's visit was significant in that it would let
New Zealanders know how important their contributions are in
Afghanistan. Peters was told, as was Goff and the PM, that
Afghanistan would take longer to fix than Iraq. Iraq,
although unstable, has an economy and infrastructure that
would enable rapid recovery once the government takes hold.
Afghanistan has too many uncontrolled areas and a dismal
infrastructure and would take much longer. The discussion
ended with the General saying he hoped for international
solidarity on dealing with wild-card Iran. That would be the
only way to lead Iran down the right path.

7. (C) General Abizaid had a roundtable with various
members from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and Trade. Questions ranged from the
spreading of Al Q'aida, to the big picture for
counter-terrorism, to United Nations and NGOs, in addition to
the questions addressed to the PM, DM and FM. The General
told the group that we need to do better in tracking money
flow, stopping Al Q'aida using U.S. internet servers for
their use and curbing the ability of AQ to use Europe as a
virtual safehaven for broad-based planning. The general told
the group that not all NGOs are good...some ne'er-do-well
organizations are able to inject their nefarious agendas into
uneducated areas causing more problems. Pakistan is going
through this, currently. The General also pointed out that
international cooperation was paramount in counter-terrorism,
in areas such as document control (passports, visas, etc),
border control, preventing failed states before they
happened, providing leadership for getting the job done
rather than relying on the U.S. military as a hammer, and
providing support, physical or moral, to those countries
doing the hard work.

8. (C) A short (15-minute) press availability with the
General was made to a group of three NZ journalists,
hand-picked by the Embassy Public Affairs Assistant. The
meeting went very well and the reports printed the next day
in NZ media were straightforward and accurate.

9. (C) General Abizaid gave a 30-minute presentation to
about 200 NZDF personnel, many of whom have served in
Afghanistan or Iraq, and followed with a 30-minute Q and A
period. The presentation was very well received, judging by
the ovation at its conclusion. NZ civilians and press were
not invited.

10. (C) There were three protestors at the airport (two of
them Amcits) staging a small but loud (bullhorn)
demonstration upon the CENTCOM aircraft's arrival. Small
demonstrations were also located at the Embassy (one-person)
and at NZDF HQ (approx 10 persons). All demonstrations were
on the first day. There were no others on day two or on the
General's departure on day three.

11. (C) Comment: General Abizaid's visit came at a time when
4-star visits to NZ have exceeded the average for the past
few years. In the last 30 days alone, NZ has received three
4-star officers. The General's visit comes at a good time,
however, as New Zealand is debating the redeployment of SAS
Special Forces and the PRT, both in Afghanistan. The
General, as well as Admiral Fallon last month, thanked New
Zealand for their contributions in world events ) contrary
to what FM Peters stated early last week that the U.S.
doesn't recognize NZ contributions in the Pacific.
Nevertheless, gaining support for NZ troops to continue
deploying to Afghanistan was successful and as the PM and DM
indicated, the deployments will continue. Media exposure was
not overdone and had the right tone and message. Lastly, at
the Ambassador's and CENTCOM's request, PM Clark did a great
job of not politicizing the visit, nor using media circuses
for domestic political purposes that undercut U.S. interests.
McCormick

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