UPDATED: Norway’s government has confirmed plans to send a total of 195 military personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan as a contribution to the US-led international efforts to combat terrorism. The decision announced Thursday was critizised by some left-wing politicians, but the opposition Labour party said it supported the move.
According to Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, 60 solidiers will be based in the north Iraqi city of Erbil and another 60 in Baghdad. Their mission is to advise and train Iraq’s military forces in their war against the extremist Islamic group IS, also known as ISIL.
Søreide called the move “a response to an acute terror threat.”
Norway’s decision had been expected for weeks, as the goverment signalled its intention in mid-September in an expanded session of the Parliament’s foreign relations and defense committee.
“We’re doing this to respond to Iraq’s (immediate) needs, and contribute long-term to reduce the terror threat posed by ISIL, nott just in Iraq and the region, but also to the west, she said.
In addtition, 75 members of Norway’s special forces will go to Afghanistan to join Resolute Support Mission (RSM), the successor to the international ISAF-force currently being dismantled.
Eriksen Søreide said the Norwegian soldiers in Iraq are not supposed to accompany their iraqi colleagues in combat. However, they will respond if attacked. The assignments will start in 2015 and are initially planned to last for one year, but there could be extensions, officials said.
“Norway must be prepared for attacks agains our forces, and our engagement could mean a bigger terrorism threat against Norway,” she said.
The cost of Norway’s latest contribution is estimated to around NOK 390 million. According to state broadcaster NRK, Norway has contributed a total of NOK one billuon this year in humanitarian support to war victims in Iraq and Syria.
Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said Norway should do more an the humanitarian side and not make a “heavy” military contribution. His party believes that Norway’s politicians and military leaders know too little about what difference Norway could make.
“We know from “Afghanistan that once you go in, it’s hard to get out,” he said.