Troops in Afghanistan coming home

Bookmark and Share

Norway’s military still claims the country has 500 troops in Afghanistan, but some reportedly already are heading home and more will follow next year. At a time when the US is asking for more soldiers in the area, the Norwegian government’s budget proposal for 2010 doesn’t seem to be answering the call.

Instead, the Norway’s left-center government wants to reduce its active infantry on duty at Meymaneh and instead maintain officers in Afghanistan who will concentrate on training, advising and cooperating with Afghan security forces.

The goal, according to reports on TV2 and in newspaper Aftenposten , is for the Afghan forces to take over main responsibility for military operations.

“As part of this … it’s planned that the infantry operations in Meymaneh will be terminated from mid-2010,” the government wrote in its budget proposal.Pullout already underway

Aftenposten reported last week that the Norwegian military already has pulled out around 150 members of its special forces along with other troops, and that total troops in Afghanistan now number well under 500.

The military’s own web site still shows 500 troops on active duty in the war-torn country.

The pending troop reduction prompted immediate protests from opposition parties in Parliament. The new head of the parliament’s foreign relations and defense committee, Ine Eriksen Søreide of the Conservatives, told Aftenposten on Thursday that it sends “a terrible signal” to the Afghans, and that she’d “like to know what our allies think about this.”Søreide conceded that “everyone’s goal is for the Afghan people to take over more of the security responsibility in their country themselves, but this is much too early.” She called the situation in Afghanistan “critical” and that Norway’s mandate is to help.

Defense Minister Anne-Grethe Strøm-Erichsen has downplayed the troop reduction that’s already occurred, claiming that staffing levels in 2008 were unusually high.

“I believe we still make a large, competent and and correct contribution to ISAF (the allied forces in Afghanistan),” she said in a statement, adding that Norway would continue to do so.