Afghan unit attacked as talks begin
July 20, 2010
Norwegian soldiers serving as mentors for Afghan colleagues came under attack for the second time in three days, just as Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was joining his colleagues for this week’s international conference in Kabul. Støre told the conference Tuesday that troops will be withdrawn “gradually,” after listing his “expectations” for the Afghan government.
The Norwegian military reported Tuesday that no one was hurt when the Norwegian “Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT)” came under fire on Monday, just a day after Støre had met with troops before traveling on to Kabul.
The attack by insurgents carrying hand weapons occurred in the same district, Ghormach, where another Norwegian soldier was wounded during the weekend. It reportedly occurred as the Norwegian-led patrol was on its way to the village of Qutani.
The patrol’s Afghan soldiers fired back and reported that three to five insurgents were killed. The Norwegian military also reported that the patrol found a roadside bomb in Qutani, which Afghan forces dismantled.
Støre had made a surprise visit to around 200 of Norway’s troops at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan on Sunday, on his way to the Kabul conference. In addition to giving the troops a pep talk and expressing the Norwegian government’s appreciation for the risks they take, he made it clear the Afghan government needs to make more progress in taking responsibility for its own security and development.
Støre is one of 40 foreign ministers from around the world taking part in the conference in Kabul, which is being led by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Conference delegates are discussing how the Afghan authorities can assume responsibility for their own country, and how foreign aid to the embattled country can be organized.
In remarks prepared for delivery at the conference, Støre rattled off a few demands aimed directly at Karzai:
“We, who contribute to Afghanistan’s future with both troops and funds, have the right to expect … that you follow up with dedication on the plans that you have developed and that we have supported,” Støre said.
“We expect transparency, good governance and dedicated efforts against corruption,” Støre continued. “We expect to see inclusiveness of all parts of the Afghan society, the full respect of women’s rights and compliance with Afghanistan’s international obligations and universal human rights. We expect, too, the full inclusion of civil society.”
Støre said Karzai and his government also have the right to expect “greater unity of purpose” from the NATO allies and UN donors, “better coordination amongst ourselves” and “more focused support to Afghan priorities.”
He said that “terror must be fought … but we all know that this conflict will not be won militarily. It must be solved politically.”
Støre noted that it was “not normal” for a country like Norway (which suffered more casualties in Afghanistan earlier this month) “to deploy troops and funds to secure the future of Afghanistan in the midst of Central Asia,” but noted the situation is “far from normal” and that the UN Security Council has called for such foreign involvement to address the “threat to regional and international peace and security.”
Norway, Støre said, “will complete its mission in building sufficient Afghan capacity for Afghans to safely run Afghanistan. Gradually responsibilities will be handed over. And gradually, Kabul will live up to its promise.”
Karzai said Tuesday that he wants more responsibility within the next four years. While the US now seems willing to start handing it over fairly soon, most countries involved in Afghanistan haven’t been impressed with his ability to run the country. One western diplomat recently blamed the lack of confidence on Karzai’s own priorities, telling Time magazine they are his own family, tribe and country, in that order.