Denmark will end its military presence in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and instead start to focus its efforts to support the civilian population according to the government’s new two-year plan for Afghanistan.
According to the foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), the withdrawal of Denmark’s approximate 650 person contribution in southern Afghanistan is necessary if the country is to regain responsibility for its own security.
“The Danish Afghanistan Plan contributes to a responsible transition of the full responsibility to the Afghan authorities while at the same time enabling our soldiers to return home from Afghanistan,” Søvndal stated. “Over the next two years the task will be to support the Afghan authorities and the Afghan people in safeguarding and building upon the progress already achieved.”
The Afghanistan plan, which was agreed between all political parties except the far-left party Enhedslisten, confirms a promise made by Søvndal last April regarding Denmark's future engagement in Afghanistan and plan for withdrawal of international forces. Following the withdrawal, Denmark will continue to support the development of the Afghan police force by providing Danish police officials and financial assistance, although this will eventually be reduced and replaced by an EU-supported police mission.
The War in Afghanistan began when international forces invaded Afghanistan a month after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on New York. After more than a decade of occupation and only modest gains, there are fears that the withdrawal of international forces will create a power vacuum that the Taleban will seek again to occupy.
Defence Minister Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne) said he recognised that the task of securing Afghanistan would not be completed over the next two years and that there will be a need for international support in Afghanistan for many years to come.
“But after 2014 the responsibility for Afghanistan’s security will lie with the Afghans,” Hækkerup said. “Thus, our role will – to a much greater extent – be to train, advice and support the Afghans.”
Afghanistan has suffered through several decades of conflict and as a result is lacking the necessary institutions and infrastructure that are needed if it is to move toward democracy.
Danish aid will focus on developing these institutions, and as a result Afghanistan will become the largest recipient of Danish development assistance, receiving an average of 530 million kroner in aid per year between 2013 and 2017.
But according to the development minister, Christian Friis Bach (Radikale), Afghanistan must live up to certain responsibilities in exchange for the aid.
“The Afghan government will be held to account for their promises of tangible progress in areas such as the respect for human rights, elections and the fight against corruption,” Friis-Bach said. “There will be consequences for our development assistance if the Afghans do not deliver on their commitments.”
Some media outlets report that the government is considering bowing to the demands of opposition centre and right-wing parties, who want to send F16 fighter jets to Afghanistan after Danish troops are withdrawn. This, however, was not confirmed by the government’s press release.
Forty-three Danish troops have lost their lives since Denmark joined international forces in Afghanistan in 2002.