His Majesty the King’s Guards, best known for their precision marching and standing watch at the Royal Palace, have also been ready to help defend the capital in case of emergency. New plans, however, look likely to strip them of their defense role.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Thursday that the royal guards may be reduced to mostly a parade unit after New Year. They’ll still get some weapons training, but they won’t be part of the military’s beredskap (preparedness) in Oslo and their numbers likely will be reduced.
While many European capitals are boosting the presence of military units, because of terrorism fears, Norway’s military brass seems to be taking the opposite approach and leaving most defense duties to the police.
The closest military preparedness unit will be at Rena, north of Elverum in eastern Norway and home of the Telemark batallion. Oslo will otherwise need to rely on its local civil defense reserve troops (Heimevernet, HV), although many of them haven’t donned a uniform or been called for military training for several years.
Moreover, as Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has reported, HV’s so-called 016 Division, which has been maintained at a high level of military preparedness, is about to be eliminated. Defense chief Harald Sunde reportedly wants to spread its personnel among other divisions.
The pending reorganization raises concerns for Oslo’s defense preparedness, but Sunde defends the plans. He told Aftenposten the 016 personnel, for example, “won’t go away” and he notes that counter-terrorism responsibility lies with the police.
Sunde said that military personnel will be available in times of trouble but that “it’s important we have clear lines around what are civilian and what are military duties. They must also conform to any threat situation.” Protecting and guarding important “institutions and installations,” he said, will continue to be a “first priority.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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