Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg took off on a sudden and secret trip to Afghanistan during the holiday weekend, landing in Kabul Monday morning to spend Norway’s Constitution Day on the 17th of May with Norwegian soldiers on duty in the area.
In what’s becoming typical Stoltenberg style, the prime minister revealed his visit via social media, sending a message on Twitter that he wished “everyone a grand 17th of May. Am in Afghanistan together with Norwegian soldiers.”
First, though, Stoltenberg was driven directly from the airport in Kabul to a meeting with Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai (PicApp photo, right). Stoltenberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that one of the issues they intended to discuss was the need to fight corruption in Afghanistan.
NRK reported that the two leaders, who have met several times before, also had several other items on their agenda and that Karzai was interested in Norway’s 17th of May celebrations. Karzai reportedly was surprised that the Norwegian people had voted to install a monarchy when Norway won its sovereignty in 1905.
Stoltenberg also told Karzai that Norway “will stand by its promises” and maintain its civilian and military presence in Afghanistan, along with NATO, “until the Afghan people can take care of their own security and development themselves.” He said the main responsibility for that is “on the shoulders” of the Afghan officials.
Norwegian Defense Minister Grete Faremo was also along on the trip to Afghanistan. After the meeting with Karzai, Stoltenberg and Faremo headed for the Norwegian base at Meymaneh, where he held a 17th of May speech for the troops.
“Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan help secure the values we celebrate on the 17th of May,” Stoltenberg told the soldiers in his prepared remarks. “Norway thanks you for your contribution.”
He also remembered the five Norwegian soldiers who have been killed on duty in Afghanistan. Two others were seriously wounded earlier this month.
Stoltenberg was criticized just last week by opposition members of Parliament, who complained he had only been in Afghanistan once during the past five years. Several of Stoltenberg’s ministers have made repeated trips to Afghanistan, however, including both the defense and foreign ministers.