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Deal struck on Swedish troops in Afghanistan

TT/AFP/The Local · 1 Nov 2010, 21:51

Published: 01 Nov 2010 15:30 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Nov 2010 21:51 GMT+01:00

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Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, along with Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin and Green Party spokesperson Peter Eriksson held a joint press conference on the matter on Monday afternoon.

According to Reinfeldt, Sweden aims to pull its combat troops out of Afghanistan between 2012 and 2014 and will maintain a largely civilian support presence after that.

"Our ambition is that Sweden's presence in Afghanistan should shift from a combative role to a more supportive role," he told reporters in Stockholm as he presented a nine-point plan for the pull-out.

"This change to a completely supportive role should be in place by 2014 at the latest.

"We have to take developments on the ground in Afghanistan into account but our aim is clear," he said, adding that the country would need support "far beyond 2014."

"Our aim is that during 2012 we will see concrete results of the process of transferring responsibility for security (to the Afghans) and that this will make it possible to reduce the number of (Swedish) combat troops," the proposal read.

Sweden will maintain its current number of some 500 soldiers in Afghanistan through 2011, it said, without specifying troop numbers after that.

Even after 2014, some military personnel will likely remain to, among other things, help train Afghan troops, the Green Party's Eriksson said.

"Swedish engagement in Afghanistan should be long-term," he said

"The agreement is very much in line with what the Green Party has wanted."

Reinfeldt's centre-right government, which has ruled as a minority since September 19 elections, needs opposition support for the bill as the far-right Sweden Democrats have said they oppose continued a Swedish troop presence in Afghanistan.

The Social Democrats and Greens, in a since dissolved Red-Green coalition with the formerly communist Left Party, also campaigned ahead of the elections on demanding a withdrawal of the Swedish troops in Afghanistan.

However, the Sweden Democrats' emergence as kingmaker in a hung parliament prompted the two centre-left parties to shift their position.

On Monday, Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin insisted the question of when to withdraw Swedish troops was "too important to leave up to an uncertain situation in parliament ... that would not be worthy of the issue."

Sahlin added that when Swedes are sent out in the field and risk their lives, there has to be a broad political unity behind the decision.

"This is a common commitment we are now making," she said adding, "this is not so much a compromise as a new strategy."

The government spent the weekend negotiating with the Red-Green opposition parties about Sweden’s Afghanistan policy.

On Sunday, Reinfeldt, along with foreign minister Carl Bildt, delivered the government’s third and final offer to the leaders of the three Red-Green parties, which resulted in the Left Party breaking off further negotiations.

The talks covered a number of points about the future of Sweden’s strategy for Afghanistan, including how to transition from a combat mission to a support mission. The Left Party, however, believed the move was simply replacing one military strategy with another.

The talks have been based on the goal of handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014.

According to Ohly, the government has remained too vague about committing to a specific timetable for withdrawing Swedish troops from Afghanistan.

News of the Afghanistan agreement came shortly after Ohly's Monday morning announcement that the Left Party was abandoning talks aiming at a broad agreement about the future presence of Swedish troops in Afghanistan.

In announcing his decision, Ohly criticised the Social Democrats and the Greens for not standing by an Afghanistan agreement forged between the three centre-left Red-Green in the run up to the September parliamentary elections.

Story continues below…

"It means that we in the Left Party must work even harder as the opposition on this issue," said Ohly.

The government currently has a parliamentary mandate to keep the troops in Afghanistan until January 1, 2011.

The new strategy will be presented to in the Riksdag on Thursday and a final vote is expected in mid-December.

Sweden is officially neutral and not a member of NATO and the question of how long its troops should take part in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan is a sensitive one.

Last month, a Swedish soldier was killed -- the fifth since the troops were deployed in Afghanistan in early 2002 -- and several were injured.

Days later, a poll showed nearly half of Swedes want the troops brought home.

TT/AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:47 November 1, 2010 by truthworthy
So they want to keep supporting the illegal war of USA with swedes money and blood. such a shame. Sweden you are respected in the world please keep your respect and withdraw your troops from there.
11:55 November 1, 2010 by know
Sweden don´t have enemy. Sweden is neutral and don´t need enemy but if anyone wants to attack Sweden all Swedes will fight against him.
12:17 November 1, 2010 by bolababu
All swedes? ..hahaha, ..not these Swedes that i know.
13:06 November 1, 2010 by gorgepir
I don't consider the war in Afghanistan an "illegal" war. You might be able to say that about the war in Iraq, but Afghanistan had quite the support at the time.

On the contrary, getting rid of Taliban rule over there and letting people live free and girls be able to study to me sound like very valid reasons. I honor those who have sacrificed their time or lives so a school girl in Harat is not forced to stay home. If there ever was a war with valid reasons, this may be one.
13:09 November 1, 2010 by cowboykodp
Just to get it correct, Afghanistan was not an ILLEGAL war. Iraq however is a different story.

Having said that, Sweden is not part of NATO, so in that regard it is a little strange to be in Afghanistan. It is commendable however that Sweden is there to help rebuild.
13:55 November 1, 2010 by xguild
What makes a war illegal? Public opinion?

I assume we are all in agreement that Albert Einstein was a smart man, so to quote him "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

The point is that war created the problem, it simply cannot be solved in the same fashion. It doesn't matter who started it, it doesn't matter what circumstances and decesions where made in response, what matters is that trying to solve a war, by fighting it, has got the world nowhere.

Whatever the solution is, its not going to be some fancy new war strategy.
14:15 November 1, 2010 by cowboykodp
Xguild, You are absolutely correct.

The legal definition of Legality of a war, does not in itself justify it.
14:26 November 1, 2010 by Swedesmith
War is war, legal or not. People suffer, people die.
14:56 November 1, 2010 by KungsholmenGuy
Agree with Cowboy that Sweden is not part of NATO, so in principle is not obligated to participate, and that it is commendable that Sweden is helping to rebuild, but the interesting debate here is the utility of continuing to pursue armed action in Afghanistan by the entire coalition.

In that regard I agree with gorgepir that the Taliban is oppressive to women, not only in preventing girls and women from obtaining an education (including blinding girls with acid on their way to school, in one case, if I recall correctly), but also for example stoning a woman or a couple to death for adultery.

So while it is easy to advocate peace, one must ask oneself: peace at what price? Neville Chamberlain's famous 'Peace for our time' speach was after deciding not to intervene when Germany forcibly annexed half of Czechoslovakia in 1938, and that peace clearly brought little benefit.

Likewise one must ask what conditions we would have to be agree to in order to secure instant peace with the Taliban. We (and the people and women of Aghanistan) might get far better terms if the Taliban leadership is war weary, and half of their leaders have vanished in drone strikes, than if we instantly offer a hastily drawn up peace agreement and then pack our bags and leave.

Having said all that, negotiations with the Taliban are now part of what is happening there, so as a result of those talks, some sort of peace and decent freedoms for women may soon be obtained for at least a part of Afghanistan.
16:20 November 1, 2010 by asian369
A transparent referendum is needed on this issue. I am sure those who would favour Swedish army in Afghanistan wont be more than 5.7 percent.
17:45 November 1, 2010 by Kooritze
Getting involved with anglo-saxon warmongers will bring you no good things. Afghanistan is unwinable and the Iraq war was indeed illegal as it surmounted to pure regime change based on lies on WMD. Coalition of the willing.......willing to go against UN rules and attack anyway. USA and UK have sold to the people that an act of offensive violence, invasion, occupation and war is an act of defence.

I am a Brit and I see and hear the bullshit propoganda and war sentimentality every time I go home. It,s as if the country is losing it,s prespective.

What is Sweden doing there? Neutrality does not entail getting into bed with NATO led agendas.
18:05 November 1, 2010 by GefleFrequentFlyer
Is this article trying to convince me that the Swedish contingent was even IN a combat role?
19:04 November 1, 2010 by Kevtravels
@Swedesmith, So true.

@asian369, I believe the Swedish Dems actually oppose Swedish participation in Afghanistan.

@cowboykodp, You are correct sir. Very commendable of the Swedes to participate as they did so well during the Balkan missions.

@GefleFrequentFlyer, Sweden originally sent troops for reconstruction in the North but over time that became more and more difficult. You see the coalition efforts up there were less than effective since the nations of Germany, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Latvia... did not have the rules of engagement as those in the South did. That allowed insurgents to gather in strength and do as they wish. Over the past year or so Swedish troops have been in combat with several killed and wounded. The Swedes need to give their boys what they need to secure their AoR and reach out more to the locals.

It's good though that the Swedes have reached an agreement on the mission. 2014 will be a very big year for Afghanistan and the coalition as many countries will have withdrawn or start to withdraw.
19:15 November 1, 2010 by Kevtravels
@GefleFrequentFlyer, Also remember it's not as if Sweden has undergone many combat missions of such kind as Afghanistan. Yes it has seen combat in several UN deployments but hard to compare the fighting in Bosnia or Congo to that in Afghanistan. Understandable for Swedes to not be used to hearing of their troops taking casualties.
21:40 November 1, 2010 by Swedesmith
War is a real ugly business. And business, it is. There are some enormously wealthy people out there that are getting richer by the minute on other's pain and suffering.

I don't really believe in Hell, but if it exists, I hope these scumbags have a reserved seat right next to the furnace.
01:08 November 2, 2010 by avatar
Dear all, the Swedish forces in Afghanistan are not a typical occupying/invading army. You can often see Swedish forces distributing candies, chocolates and bottles of mineral water in local Afghans, and receiving smiles in return. That said, Swedes are very popular in 'common' Afghans.
06:38 November 2, 2010 by sigfus45
Don't even think that i support war or it's variants. Think similarly that Sweden is neutral, it just is not true historically or presently, maybe an "artful dodger". All that politics aside, Sweden has military for a purpose, not properly training that military does them a disservice, likely to be wasted physically and mentally because they have no experience. Those that I know join for a purpose, for training for a certain excitement, some thing out of ordinary and expecting that they will be prepared for such things. In short, persons in the military called upon for those things that are expected of the military will die, or worse, suffer serious injury due to their poor training and lack of experience. Afghanistan is one of those unfortunate places that offer an untold misery and periods of bright shining humanity, a place to learn many things. Don't restrict the military from learning, passing on their uniquely Swedish humanity.

Sigfus in Canada
10:06 November 2, 2010 by marianne667
Sweden is not neutral. Never really has been except on paper. We Swedes are sneaky and never quite up front w/ anything.
05:08 December 20, 2010 by No Haram Done
We need to bring ALL of our U.S. troops home to secure our ENTIRE border & NOT save corporate interests/resources.

Stop/deport all undocumented people & ALL MUSLIMS (including those BORN HERE in the U.S.) to Saudi Arabia (with all of their OIL WEALTH).

Soon we'll have to launch another OPERATION OVERLORD to free EUROPE of its MUSLIM HORDES as we did in WWII to stop Nazism!

I'm a liberal Democrat & it REALLY HURTS to have to admit this, but I know I'm NOT ALONE!!

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