Jets to return from Libya in August

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Norwegian government officials have decided to extend Norway’s contribution to the NATO-led bombings of Libya until August 1, when the country’s remaining fighter jets assigned to the operation will be brought home. Politicians called the decision “a decent compromise.”

Norway will bring home its F16 fighter jets that are currently stationed on Crete to take part in the Libyan bombings. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Lars Magne Hovtun

Norway’s left-center government coalition and opposition parties in Parliament had been in broad agreement on the decision to initially take part in the UN-backed military intervention in Libya, but calls have been rising that it mustn’t go on indefinitely.

Norway’s air force was also becoming hard-pressed to maintain the tempo of the bombing raids, and the commitment of equipment and personnel to the operation. Norway sent more than 100 military personnel along with six F16 fighter jets that have been stationed on Crete as a base for the Libyan bombing raids.

Two of the jets are likely to be withdrawn after Norway’s initial three-month commitment period ends on June 24. The remaining four will be withdrawn from August 1.

“We have agreed on a reduced contribution and thereafter a final withdrawal on August 1,” Bård Vegar Solhjell, parliamentary leader for one of the government coalition parties, the Socialist Left (SV), told news bureau NTB just before the weekend. “Now Norway must provide help to find a peaceful solution for Libya.”

SV had wanted to pull all six fighter jets out of the Libyan operation on June 24, but Solhjell said the agreement was a “decent compromise.”

Norway has won praise from top NATO officials for its participation, which even US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said amounted to more than its fair share of commitment given the size of Norway’s military. Gates said both Norway and Denmark had taken part in “a disproportionate share of the campaign in Libya,” where Norway has been among the most active participants in bombing raids.

Withdrawing from Afghanistan, too
Norway also plans to bring its combat troops home from Afghanistan and replace them with instructors and advisers who can help train Afghan forces. Newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad reported over the weekend that Roy Abelsen, military attaché at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, said Norway’s troops, which have numbered around 500, would be replaced by troops from Latvia.

“We will bring the troops home sooner or later, and the Afghans must take more responsibility for their own country,” Abelsen told Stavanger Aftenblad. “We’re moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat and then to the back seat.”

NATO, of which Norway is a long-time member, decided last year that Afghanistan should assume full responsibility from 2014.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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