Norwegian soldiers on duty in Afghanistan have been the targets of 165 attacks and several road bombs during the first half of this year. Being under fire, though, isn’t scaring away new recruits keen to join the NATO-led operations.
Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the area in northern Afghanistan where Norwegian troops are based was formerly considered relatively quiet compared to the areas of much higher casualites in the south.
“Now we’re being shot at in places were we earlier could move around freely,” Colonel Gjermund Eide, who headed the Norwegian contingent in Afghanistan until this summer, told Aftenposten.
He described Ghrowrmach in northern Afghanistan as a “hornets’ nest” now, adding that “we have a demanding job and we’re meeting more opposition.”
Firefights with Taliban insurgents have become an everyday event, with a new rundown of attacks compiled by the Defense Ministry for Aftenposten showing the soldiers under almost daily attack.
Insurgents launched 85 direct or indirect attacks on Norwegian troops between January 1 and July 1, according to the military’s compilation. Norwegian soldiers have also been attacked by road bombs on 15 occasions.
Norwegian troops have also uncovered 27 more road bombs that failed to explode, and reported on 38 other assaults deemed serious.
Not scared off
Both the Defense Ministry and military researchers link the increase to NATO’s new strategy, which means that soldiers are being sent out more often. The insurgent attacks remain unpredictable.
The number of attacks “clearly shows what type of environment Norwegian soldiers are operating in, and what kind of threats they’re subject to,” said Lt Col Knut Fredheim, former chief for the Norwegian base at Meymaneh. “It’s important we’re aware of it.”
Despite the increased danger, there’s a waiting list of soldiers keen to serve in Afghanistan. It’s also been reported throughout the summer that interest remains high in joining the military to serve overseas, even after four soldiers were killed in a single attack in June.