WikiLeaks cable: NZ releases documents on US Afghan troop request

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

July 9, 2009
New Zealand Releases Documents on US Afghan Troop Request

date:2009-07-09T06:31:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:09WELLINGTON209
destination:VZCZCXYZ0008 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHWL #0209 1900629 ZNY CCCCC
ZZH O R 090631Z JUL 09 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE
WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0062 INFO RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI RUEHBN/AMCONSUL
MELBOURNE 0004 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0008 RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA
0012 RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0014 RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0003
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:09WELLINGTON179
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000209

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/07/09
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MARR, OPRC, NZ, US
SUBJECT: New Zealan...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000209

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/07/09
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MARR, OPRC, NZ, US
SUBJECT: New Zealand Releases Documents on US Afghan Troop Request
REF: WELLINGTON 179

CLASSIFIED BY: DJKeegan, CDA, DOS, Embassy Wellington; REASON:
1.4(B), (D)

1. (SBU) Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported July 8 that it had obtained New Zealand Government documents that showed that the U.S. Government had put "constant pressure" on the GNZ to increase its military commitment to Afghanistan. Embassy contacted NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) who confirmed that it had provided documents to RNZ in response to an "Official Information Act (OIA) request" and provided the documents to the Embassy (emailed to EAP/ANP). The documents show no evidence of pressure, but concerns about New Zealand's possible additional military commitment to Afghanistan will likely cause increasing media scrutiny.

2. (SBU) MFAT Americas Division Director David Taylor told the Embassy that MFAT had received the RNZ request three months ago and had just released the material in response. He noted that MFAT had exceeded the statutory 21 day limit for responding to OIA requests. The heavily redacted documents released include a series of fourteen diplomatic cables, most between MFAT and the NZ Embassy in Washington, dated from 11 February to 9 April as well as three MFAT press releases and the transcript of a media interview. The cables report that the US side on several occasions expressed appreciation for NZ military capabilities, including particularly the NZ PRT and the SAS. The cables also report that the U.S. Embassy in Wellington conveyed a USG request for comment on a series of topics as the U.S. prepared to review its own policy in Afghanistan and that MFAT responded with comments. In the cables and in the media pieces, the GNZ, Foreign Minister Murray McCully, and Defence Minister Wayne Mapp state that they are looking at what they might be able to do to help in Afghanistan, while noting that the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is stretched thin by current commitments. They note that the GNZ is undertaking a review of its own posture in Afghanistan and any decision on military commitments will be made after the conclusion of that review.

3. (U) Radio New Zealand's report based on the OIA documents was a very brief factual report on its main morning news program, Morning Report, saying that they had asked for and received the papers which showed, they said, that the U.S. had constantly pressured GNZ for an increased commitment to Afghanistan. The story and papers have not yet received extensive coverage elsewhere.

4. (C) ChargC) noted to Taylor that the Embassy and the USG should have been informed before any documents were shared regarding meetings with USG officials. Taylor said that MFAT had made a mistake in not consulting with the U.S. side, apologized, and promised to convey ChargC)'s objections. He assured me that he would do everything possible to ensure that this does not occur again. He confirmed that the documents provided to RNZ would also be provided to any news organization which requested them. The Embassy DAO has contacted NZ Ministry of Defence which reports that they have not received any OIA requests along these lines. If they did they would respond by providing the same documents already released by MFAT.

5. (C) Comment. Having reviewed the documents released, we find nothing to support an allegation of U.S. pressure on New Zealand. Instead, the dominant themes are U.S. respect and appreciation for NZ military capabilities and contributions. Even though there is no smoking gun, we anticipate that the NZ media will continue to question whether the GNZ is justified in considering possible additional military deployments to Afghanistan. As Green Party Member of Parliament Kennedy Graham demonstrated in his questions to the Foreign Minister in Parliament (reftel), there is a continuing undercurrent of suspicion toward the U.S. and doubt about whether U.S. and NATO actions in Afghanistan are in keeping with New Zealand's tradition of strong adherence to the letter of UN limitations on the use of force. In addition, there are NZ
reporters and columnists who are looking for a way to show that either the Key Government is not fully in control of its agenda or too willing to listen to requests from the USG. I would anticipate that one or more of them will obtain these documents and try to tease out of this thin gruel something more intriguing than RNZ has yet produced.

KEEGAN

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