Soldiers keen to serve in Afghanistan

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Despite rising casualty rates and some renewed calls to bring troops home, Norwegian soldiers are showing strong interest in serving in Afghanistan. More than half of this year’s recruits to officers’ training school want to head overseas.

More Norwegian soldiers are showing interest in serving overseas and in Afghanistan. PHOTO: Forsvaret

Military officials reported a rise in inquiries just after four Norwegian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in June, and the interest hasn’t let up.

“There’s actually been greater interest since that incident,” Major Christian Sjølie of the recruiting arm Vernepliktsverket told newspaper Aftenposten

More than 1,600 names currently are on a list of those expressing interest in serving in Norway’s overseas operations. The largest is in Afghanistan, where Norway currently has around 500 troops.

Reasons for the interest vary from a perceived lack of military opportunities at home in Norway, to the extra pay that comes with hazard duty overseas and the experience that overseas service offers.

Norwegian government officials have also stepped up efforts lately to show their appreciation for the troops in Afghanistan, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has stressed that Norway will maintain its presence “as long as needed.”

New recruits “are very aware of the risks involved,” Lt Col Knut Fredheim, who headed a recent contingent in Afghanistan, told Aftenposten. “That’s something we talk about a lot, in their preparations for duty. They know that what they’ll be doing is linked to danger.”

Other officers attributed the interest to individual desires to contribute to the so-called war against terrorism and because some see the service as “exciting.”

The increased interest in serving in Afghanistan comes not just after recent high numbers of casualties suffered by ISAF soldiers all over the war-torn country but also after a rise in the numbers of Norwegians who now think Norway should withdraw from Afghanistan.

A survey conducted for newspaper VG earlier this week showed that 49 percent now want to bring Norwegian troops home. That’s up from 35 percent in June.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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