Norway to NATO: 'No more troops'

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Norway’s new Defense Minister, just two days into her job, traveled to Slovakia for a NATO meeting where Norway and other countries were being urged to send more troops to Afghanistan. Grete Faremo says NATO needs to be content with the contribution Norway is making already.

“I think the secretary general (former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen) will say that he is satisfied with the plans we have for our contribution,” Faremo told newspaper Aftenposten before arriving in Bratislava.

Espen Barth-Eide, state secretary in the defense ministry, noted that Norway has boosted its ranks of officers who act as mentors for the Afghan forces.

“It’s expensive, demanding and at times risky, and it’s what NATO wants,” Barth-Eide said.

Both Faremo and Barth-Eide said they were worried about the situation in Afghanistan and stressed that Norway won’t cut its number of troops. Confusion erupted last week when the government’s budget proposal indicated that the Norwegian infantry presence at Meymaneh would be “terminated.” That’s not correct, said Faremo’s predecessor Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen.The Norwegian government, she clarified, does aim, however, to eventually replace its soldiers on active duty with troops and officers who instead will concentrate on training, advising and cooperating with Afghan troops, to help them take care of their security needs themselves.

Fogh Rasmussen, meanwhile, said he was aware that a rising number of NATO members question whether the costs of the military operation in Afghanistan are too high. He countered that the costs of not having troops there would be much higher.

He wants NATO members do more now, so they can do less later. Australia, however, announced it planned to withdraw the 1,500 troops it has in the war-torn country.