Should Swedish Armed Forces be fighting terrorism?

This was the main issue being discussed during the 'People and Defence' Conference in Sälen last week. With the participation of the parliament, the government, the king and central authorities, the aim was to come up with a policy on the Swedish Armed Forces' right to deal with a terrorist threat.

Svenska Dagbladet reported on Tuesday that the defence minister, Leni Björklund, said the Armed Forces’ participation is only a matter of time.

She named a list of measures that were suggested by the government to improve Sweden’s defence when faced with a catastrophe or crisis. They have been discussed for some time now, but have been updated following the tsunami in Asia and storm in the south of Sweden.

But “Ådalen incident” of 1931, when the army shot at protesting workers, has not been forgotten. Since then, the armed forces have been forbidden by law from involvement in conflict with Swedish citizens.

The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Håkan Syrén, told SvD that it is easier to work together with other nations than internally.

“The goal is that the parliament should decide on this matter as soon as possible, so a well sustained decision can be made and Sweden is well prepared when faced with a crisis” said Håkan Syrén.

But it is also a matter of budget. He criticized the fact that the Armed Forces’ recent budget resolution was cut significantly. Less money means that the entire system may be liquidated or equipment orders cancelled.

According to Sveriges Radio, the thought behind the Armed Forces getting involved in dealing with terrorist threats is that they would act as a support to the police in specific areas. These include evacuation, transportation, medical care and intelligence, but Björklund did not want to go into further detail about the aid.

Kim Åkerman, Brigadier at The Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, criticised the fact that a decision still has not been made. He believes that there should be laws supporting the Armed Forces’ ability to react to a terrorist threat.

“We have trained soldiers who can resolve these issues,” he said.

“A terrorist attack would be more than the police could deal with but everything is on hold, waiting to be investigated. It seems to be a very sensitive political issue.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, SR, Dagens Nyheter