In a new book, Lund University intelligence analysis professor Wilhelm Agrell argues that the government failed to explain to the Swedish parliament that the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Swedish troops that were a part of it changed their mission after 2009.
While ISAF troops had previously been primarily a defensive patrol force, they later shifted to an offensive counter-insurgency force.
“They transitioned from patrolling and self-defence to attack,” Agrell told the TT news agency.
But the Swedish government failed to enlighten lawmakers in the Riksdag of the shift in ISAF’s mission when the parliament voted to extend the Swedish military’s mission in Afghanistan.
Agrell points out that in 2009, the United States wanted to change ISAF’s tactics from focusing on protecting reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan to counter-insurgency warfare.
Sweden was forced to accept the new mission if it wanted its troops to remain in Afghanistan.
“They were supposed to go after the enemy where ever they could find them,” Agrell told TT.
However, Agrell claims that the new mission was never specified in government bills presented to the Riksdag on extending Sweden’s military engagement in Afghanistan.
“The Riksdag made decision after decision without realizing they had passed over the threshold to war,” said Agrell.
In his book, ‘Ett krig här och nu: Sveriges väg till väpnad konflikt i Afghanistan’ (‘A war here and now: Sweden’s road to armed conflict in Afghanistan’), Agrell argues that civilian-military cooperation has also been a huge failure for Sweden.
“It’s astounding that Sweden failed to manage what it should have been best at,” he said.
According to Agrell, the civil society building efforts in regions for which Sweden was responsible failed to yield any results.
The primary cause, he argues, is a lack of coordination in the government offices and a failure to identify exactly what should be achieved.
Sweden is in the process of reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan from 500 in 2011 to fewer than 300 this year.
Starting in July 2013, Sweden’s contribution will form part of a Nordic-Baltic operation along with Norway, Finland and Latvia.