Liberals push for more Afghanistan troops
TT/The Local · 12 Feb 2010, 07:29
Published: 12 Feb 2010 07:29 GMT+01:00
- 'Only good foreign soldier on Afghan soil is a dead one': Myrdal (09 Feb 10)
- Three arrested for killing of Swedish soldiers (09 Feb 10)
- Swedish soldiers killed by 'Afghan police' (08 Feb 10)
"The force is understaffed," Liberal Party defence spokesperson Allan Widman said to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
The Swedish parliament decided in the autumn to increase the force from 390 to 500 soldiers. When the mandate for the FS18 contingent expires in the autumn, the Liberal Party wants a larger force to replace them.
Allan Widman pointed out that a large part of the area that the Swedish forces are supposed to take responsibility for is almost never visited by any soldiers. 500 Swedish and 93 Finnish soldiers are tasked with securing an area the size of the Baltic island of Gotland.
The Liberal Party is part of the government coalition and as such supports the existing defence budget and the decision over how large an international force Sweden should maintain.
The Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors explained to the newspaper that an increase in the Afghanistan force is not currently planned.
"It is not currently on the cards. But it is the nature of international deployment to always adapt to the situation. That we did by increasing the force from 390 to 500 just before Christmas," Tolgfors said.
Swedish forces have been encouraged to mix with the local population in a more informal manner. The practice of removing helmets and driving around in open jeeps has been criticized for exposing the troops to extra risk.
Tolgfors defended the practice, telling the newspaper that in the longer term it is safer.
"You can only win Afghanistan if you win over the civilians," he said.