|Wikileaks:||View 01ABUJA1155 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PREL MASS MARR NI|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001155 SIPDIS BRUSSELS FOR HINSON-JONES NSC FOR FRAZER, BYRNE, MCLEAN OSD FOR CIKINS AND PDAS-D MCCONNELL BANJUL FOR DCM AF/RA FOR BITTRICK E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2011 TAGS: PREL, MASS, MARR, NI SUBJECT: PROGRESS ON OFR BASING ISSUES REF: A. ABUJA 702 B. ABUJA 796 C. ABUJA 873 D. ABUJA 1040 (U) Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 1. (C) SUMMARY: AF/RA Bittrick, DATT and PolMilOff called on Minister of Army Batagarawa May 16. Batagarawa was pleased to hear about the improved levels of cooperation from the Nigerian military on OFR and MPRI. He thought basing alternatives for the 65th and 73rd battalions could be found, and reiterated the commitment he made to Ambassador Jeter to solve any emerging security assistance problems. He indicated that locating a forward operating base (FOB) would not be a problem. However, he emphasized the urgent need for an MOU on OFR. Batagarawa was receptive to central basing for the 65th and 73rd battalions, agreed with the DATT's plan to discuss the issue with the Chief of Defense Staff (VADM Ogohi), and suggested Kaduna be considered as a central site. Clearly frustrated the MPRI payment had not been sent, he asked his Special Assistant to set a meeting for him on May 18 with the MOD Director of Budget. Subsequently, Deputy Chief of Training and Operations General Zidon agreed to develop alternatives for the 65th and 73rd battalions, based on the DATT's suggestions. Ogohi asked Zidon to do so in tandem with the office of the Chief of Army Staff. END SUMMARY. 2. (U) On May 16, Minister of State for Army Lawal Batagarawa requested to meet with AF/RA LTC Bittrick. Also in attendance were DATT, PolMilOff, and the Minister's Special Assistant. (PolMilOff had informed the Minister's Special Assistant of Bittrick's presence in Nigeria, and said that, while the Embassy would not formally request a meeting with the Army Minister for reasons of protocol, Bittrick along with PolMilOff and DATT would be available should the Minister desire a meeting.) On May 17, the DATT and PolMilOff briefed the Deputy Chief of Training and Operations Brigadier General G.T. Zidon and Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) Vice Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, on similar issues. === OFR === 3. (C) Batagarawa stated that both the Operation Focus Relief (OFR) and the MPRI programs were, in his estimation, very good and important programs. He started to address the issue of past problems with OFR, but as he was having difficulty finding the words, Bittrick asked if he could interrupt. Bittrick stated that it was clear there had been a change in the level of cooperation in the last month, and that Washington was very appreciative. Batagarawa responded, "Good. Then that's all I have to say about that." He then reiterated his previous commitment to Ambassador Jeter that he would personally ensure that the OFR program progressed smoothly (Ref B). However, he said, there was still a need to complete an MOU to ensure both sides were in agreement on Phase 3 modalities (Ref B). 4. (C) The DATT said that in the last three weeks, the Army had been exceptionally helpful, enthusiastic and cooperative. He explained that an issue had arisen, but he would brief the Deputy Chief of Training and Operations and the CDS on May 17, and expected it could be resolved. He then explained that the proposed training sites for the 73rd battalion (Enugu) in Abakaliki and the 65th battalion (Lagos) in Owode did not have billets for the Nigerian soldiers. Since there was billeting for the Nigerian soldiers in Birnin-Kebbi, that planning could presently go forward. 5. (C) The DATT pointed out that the U.S. would find it hard to construct tent camps for the Nigerian soldiers in Abakaliki and Owode as the Nigerian Army had requested because of financial constraints. Therefore, it might make sense to look at some other options, including: 1) centralizing training in Kachia, as had originally been suggested by President Obasanjo; 2) selecting different battalions, based where training could occur and billeting was available. A location would also have to be selected for the FOB that made sense in terms of the other basing. In any case, the DATT and Defense Staff would work together to find a solution. 6. (C) In response, Batagarawa agreed it was a good idea to brief Zidon and Ogohi, and said he would meet with them on May 18 to follow up on the discussions. He stated that it would be very difficult to try to select new battalions. However, he said, a solution would be found. Batagarawa suggested Kaduna (instead of Kachia) be considered for the Enugu and Lagos battalions. He explained that with the Nigerian Defense Academy, the Command and Staff College, the military depot in Zaria and the Military Police Training School near Kaduna, surely land and billeting was available. Batagarawa indicated that finding a location for the FOB would not be an issue. ============ MPRI PAYMENT ============ 7. (C) The DATT then updated the Minister on the status of the MPRI payment (Ref D). Batagarawa slapped his hand to his forehead in frustration, paused, and then instructed his Special Assistant to arrange a meeting for him on May 18 with the MOD Director of Budget. "I will take care of it," he said. The DATT noted that the improved spirit of cooperation seen in OFR also applied to the MPRI program. He reminded the Minister that the team was ready to discuss special projects with his office at any time, as they had done with the CDS and would soon do with the MOD Director of Army. ============================================= == Deputy Chief of Training and Operations and CDS ============================================= == 8. (C) On May 17, DATT and PolMilOff called on the Deputy Chief of Training and Operations, Brigadier General Zidon (with his staff) and Ogohi to apprise them of the issues surrounding the training sites for the Enugu and Lagos battalions. DATT briefed them on the situation and laid out various options for the military to consider. He also noted that the plans for 1 Battalion in Birnin-Kebbi could move forward immediately. Both Zidon and Ogohi were receptive to looking at other basing options, and to finding a location for the FOB. DATT emphasized the need for quick decisions so that training could begin on schedule. 9. (C) Surprisingly, Ogohi asked how long the training would be, and expressed dismay that the battalions would not deploy until late October, explaining that two of the four Nigerian battalions presently in Sierra Leone were due to rotate out in August (5 and 130 Battalions). Zidon asked for a paper version of the briefing, which DATT agreed to provide the same day. Ogohi asked Zidon to work with the office of the Chief of Army Staff ("since they know the terrain") and to determine a solution. 10. (C) COMMENT: The level of cooperation and teamwork (since the April 19 round-table and the ascension of the new Service Chiefs) displayed by the Nigerian military towards security assistance programs in general, and OFR specifically, makes it hard to believe we are still in the same country. Batagarawa has, since assuming his position, proven to be an extremely helpful and results-oriented interlocutor for the Embassy. An MOU is a good suggestion, and it will be important to make progress in this area to demonstrate our responsiveness to the Minister. While the new issues surrounding basing need to be solved, we are optimistic (cautiously -- this is still the same country) that mutually agreeable solutions will be found. 11. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: BG Zidon is new in his position and relied on his staff to ask questions and seek information during the briefing. The CDS, a Naval Officer with limited knowledge of Army bases, deferred to Zidon and the office of the Chief of Army Staff. But neither Zidon nor Ogohi gave any sign of dismay or indication that the basing issue would be insurmountable. The training and operations staff were more cautious, but deferred to their bosses. 12. (C) DAO COMMENT: The Nigerians seemed to appreciate the idea that funding constraints could cause a reappreciation of OFR basing concepts. The idea of providing a tent camp(s) for the Nigerian battalions comes from the earliest discussions of OFR last year and were related to the idea then of centralized basing which was dropped due to the opposition of then-Chief of Army Staff Malu. Still, the units, all visited last week, are supportive and eager to start. 13. (C) DAO COMMENT CONTINUED: The DATT will attempt to steer the Nigerian Army Staff to consider (in order of priority): 1) Selecting two different units that are in billets and on bases that have firing and maneuver spaces; 2) Centralized training to economize on base camp construction but with an eye on a facility that could billet the Nigerian battalions without preparation (this may also be helpful for follow-on programming); 3) Finding a site for the FOB if it cannot be NAF Abuja or co-located with the centralized base; 4) Starting construction at Birnin-Kebbi immediately; 5) Finding other solutions if none of the above work. END DAO COMMENT. 14. (U) LTC Bittrick did not clear this cable before departing Abuja. Andrews
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