NATO seeks troops for Afghanistan

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NATO’s Norwegian secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, wants his homeland to send more troops to Afghanistan. Norway has withdrawn most all its soldiers after years of engagement, and has resisted calls to re-join the fight against the Taliban, but new talks with NATO are now underway.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wants Norway to send soldiers to Afghanistan again, and a formal request is expected soon. PHOTO: NATO

“Norway has good soldiers and good capacity that we earlier have seen do a good job in Afghanistan,” Stoltenberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) this week. His comments came after US President Donald Trump changed his mind and announced that he would strengthen the US’ own presence in Afghanistan with several thousand troops.

Stoltenberg welcomed Trump’s announcement, not least since NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan continues while the Taliban has become more aggressive.  The goal, according to a statement from NATO, is still to make sure that Afghanistan will “never again” be a safe haven for terrorists who want to attack the countries that are members of NATO.

‘We have a dialogue’
While Norwegian officials were mostly staying mum about any new deployment of troops to Afghanistan, Stoltenberg told NRK that “we have a dialogue with Norway, like we do with other countries. but we’ll come back with concrete details and requests.”

Norwegian defense ministry officials told NRK that Norway has not received any formal request from NATO yet. The government decided in June that Norway’s current contribution of around 50 soldiers and officers would remain in Afghanistan through 2018. Their assignment in NATO’s so-called “Resolute Support Mission” is to develop the Afghan special police in Kabul.

At that time, the government decided it would not send more soldiers. This week the defense ministry was saying that the government was making “ongoing evaluations” of the scope and directions for Norway’s contribution.

Objections from a military veteran
Retired major general and military intelligence chief Kjell Grandhagen told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday that he doesn’t think Norway should take part in the hunt for the Taliban. Grandhagen, who has emerged as one of Norway’s foremost commentators on defense issues, claimed there “is no military solution for Afghanistan.” He believes “the only road to peace” is through “dialogue with the Taliban. It’s not easy, and it’s a process where you have to give and take.”

He all but dismissed Trump’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan as an effort “to do something” because of a need to present “a new strategy to Congress.” He predicts that strategy will resort once again to counter-terrorism measures including attacks on the Taliban and building up the Afghan military capacity.

Grandhagen doesn’t think it will work: “At the most the US had 150,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. They hardly have a greater chance with 10,000 to 20,000.” The latest move may be to hold better cards in a negotiating situation with the Taliban. “But they (the US) had to do something, either pull out completely and leave the Afghans on their own, go for a pure counter-terrorism operation, or continue to try to get the Afghans to build up their security themselves. I view all that as temporary measures. The only way forward is through a dialog with the Taliban.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund