A new book based on Norwegian soldiers’ frank descriptions of their actions in Afghanistan has revealed a hunter mentality among them, as they track down and kill suspected insurgents. Politicians claim they’re not surprised.
The book, launched on Thursday by Oslo publishing firm Kagge Forlag, has the title Med mandat til å drepe (“With a mandate to kill”). It offers chilling accounts of brutal incidents in which Norwegian special forces and snipers have been involved, with one soldier describing he and his colleagues as “wolves on a hunt” and “an eagle over a calf.”
In one excerpt, a Norwegian sniper admits that he killed a 16-year-old boy during a battle with Taliban insurgents. The boy, he later was told, had been forced into Taliban duty by insurgents that offered his parents USD 100 to recruit the boy for a year. If they didn’t accept, the boy would be killed on the spot.
Fears of betrayal
Norway’s Defense Ministry wasn’t made aware of the book, or that its own soldiers had contributed to its contents, until earlier this week. Ministry officials said they couldn’t comment on the book until they’d had a chance to read it.
Lt Col John Inge Øglænd, however, told newspaper Aftenposten that he didn’t think the book would damage Norway’s military operations in Afghanistan. He feared, however, that other soldiers might feel betrayed that some of their colleagues had anonymously revealed accounts of incidents that normally are kept among themselves.
“The soldiers admit themselves that they’re breaking a code and a brotherhood,” Øglænd told Aftenposten. “I think they’ve broken a confidence with their comrades.”
Erling Kagge, the former adventurer and expedition leader who runs Kagge Forlag, told reporters that the soldiers wanted the Norwegian public “to have some insight into what they’re doing in Afghanistan, where there’s a war and where they’re being shot at.” He denies the book presents any security risk for Norwegian troops in Afghanistan.
‘Comes as no surprise’
Politicians from most of the parties represented in Parliament generally agreed that it should come as no surprise that Norwegian soldiers face brutal situations every day in Afghanistan.
“It’s positive to get more information about what our presence in Afghanistan means,” said Bård Vegard Solhjell of the Socialist Left, who lost a cousin who was among four soldiers killed in Afghanistan in June. “I think the time for Norwegian participation is over.”
Svein Roald Hansen of the Labour Party said the “brutality of battle shouldn’t surprise us. I think it’s good there’s been openness about what the Norwegian soldiers are doing.”
Siv Jensen of the Progress Party seemed to agree. “No one should think it’s a holiday camp down there,” she told Aftenposten. “It’s a tough, brutal situation and it’s fine to put the spotlight on it. It also shows how important it is to support the soldiers’ contribution. We mustn’t lose sight of what we’re fighting against.”