Norway to reshuffle its Afghan troops

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Norwegian troops are being pulled back from high risk areas in Afghanistan, not only because Afghan troops are supposedly ready to take their place. There’s a limit, officers claim, to how long Norway can continue supplying fresh batches of soldiers ready for action.

Norwegian troops at Meymaneh in 2007. PHOTO: Forsvaret

A troop reshuffle is also a consequence of Norwegian troops having been in action continuously for a long time, and because of political opinion in Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten reports this as the opinion of a senior officer who has served in Afghanistan.

The Norwegian contingent in Afghanistan will be reorganized in 2011, Minister of Defense, Grete Faremo, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday. The same number of soldiers and officers will be sent, but they will be based in Meymaneh, where Norway has had its main base since 2004.

Faremo explains the move by saying that the Afghans have built up a brigade which can maintain security in the “Norwegian” area. The US has also brought in a sizeable force.

Several officers told Aftenposten that the reorganization reflects a desire for reduced risk of battles with the insurgent forces, particularly in the Ghowrmach area. The fighting there has featured close combat where loss of life is likely to occur.

A new role, the officers claim, would also make it easier for Norwegian politicians to accept a continued presence in Afghanistan and lower expenses. There also is a limit to how long Norway will be able to field troops able to cope with the high level of conflict seen in recent months and also handle instruction of Afghan forces. Norway now will focus on mentoring Afghan officers high in the chain of command.

Norway still has around 500 troops in Afghanistan and will maintain that level in 2011.

Views and News from Norway/Sven Goll
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