Norway’s defense minstry confirmed Monday night that it has received a formal request from the US to contribute more military might to the fight against the Islamic extremist group IS. Norway already helps train Iraqi soldiers to fight IS, but now the US wants Norway to help fight IS in Syria.
“I can confirm that we, in line with several of our allies, have received a request from the US to provide further military contributions in the fight against ISIL (IS), in addition to the military contribution we make today,” Eskil G Sivertsen, spokesman for the defense ministry, told newspaper Aftenposten.
Sivertsen said the request would demand a “thorough evaluation.” The request, he said, was being “handled now in the defense ministry in the normal manner,” he said.
That means the ministry has asked top military officials to offer “professional military advice” on what Norway could contribute. With that in hand, the request would be handled at the political level, with both the government and Members of Parliament involved in formulating a response.
The ministry spokesman didn’t answer Aftenposten’s question about how concrete the US may have been in its request for more military assistance in the battle against IS. At present, it’s mostly being waged with special forces on the ground and fighter jet attacks in the air. The US, France, Russia and most recently the UK have all been bombing IS installations in Syria in recent weeks.
Norway played an active role in the NATO-led bombing of Libya in the spring of 2011, and won high marks from its allies for the precision and capacity of its fighter jet pilots. It remained unclear, however, whether the US wants Norway to also send fighter jets to the Middle East and join bombing raids over Syria and Iraq. The Norwegian air force, which is still flying its old F16s until finally receiving the first of its new F35 fighter jets, has been busy lately responding to Russian jets that have been buzzing Norway’s coast of late, and also has deployed fighter jets to the Baltic countries. Heightened tensions with Russia in the Arctic may make it difficult for Norway to also send jets to the Middle East, but in IS, both Norway as a NATO ally and Russia seem to have a common enemy.
Norway may also be asked to send some of its own special forces into Syria.the US has declared that it will boost the number of special forces that will cooperate with local forces against IS.
Aftenposten reported that Norway may simply be asked to contribute more military equipment, which the Kurdish armed force Pershmergaen also has requested. Pershmergaen has been hailed for some recent victories over IS, but is hindered by its old equipment, a lack of ammunition and that they’re easily outarmed by IS.
Norway currently is reported to have around 60 soldiers and officers in place in Northern Iraq to train Kurdish forces at a military camp located between Kirkuk and Sulaymaniya. Norwegian special forces also are reportedly training Iraqi forces in the Baghdad area.