Denmark stands out at NATO summit

NATO summit in Chicago agreed on timetable for Afghanistan exit and the pooling of military hardware, including drones partially funded by Denmark

Updated 22/5/12, 11:20

Denmark continued to position itself as a key actor in ensuring the future security of Afghanistan at a summit of leaders from the military alliance NATO in Chicago over the weekend.

The summit agreed to maintain the planned withdrawal of the NATO-led ISAF forces by the end of 2014, which will leave the security of the country entirely in the hands of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Despite the agreement to withdraw forces, PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) conceded that some foreign personnel will remain in the country.

“There is no doubt that we will have Danes in Afghanistan after 2014,” Thorning-Schmidt said at a press conference. “There will be a need for military training personnel and those who can help with civilian reconstruction. And when Danes are deployed, we must also ensure their security.”

There are currently about 650 Danish troops in Afghanistan as part of the 130,000 troop ISAF forces that are drawn from 42 countries around the world.

The Afghanistan army now numbers about 330,000 and its annual bill is expected to reach about 24 billion kroner. With Afghanistan expected to cover about three billion kroner and the US about 13 billion kroner, about eight billion kroner remains unaccounted for.

Denmark has spearheaded efforts to find funding to make up the shortfall committing 100 million kroner to fund the ANSF and another 530 million for civilian purposes, while also drawing pledges for funding from other NATO members.

Late on Monday night, Thorning-Schmidt announced that she had managed to raise almost six of the eight billion kroner.

"Our effort has borne fruit," Thorning-Schmidt said according to Ritzau. "It's far more than we had imagined when we started the meeting."

Denmark’s commitment to Afghanistan was praised by NATO's secretary general, and former Danish PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“Denmark has made a positive contribution by being a driving force in the endeavours in raising money for the Afghanistan security forces by deciding to donate 100 million kroner,” Fogh said according to Politiken. “It has been noticed by the alliance.”

The defence minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), explained that it was important for Denmark to take the opportunities it had to make its voice heard.

“For a small country like Denmark it is a tremendous advantage that international decisions are made in forums such as NATO in which it is not merely the strongest voice that counts," he told Politiken. "That’s why we have to contribute.”

Remaining at the core of an international alliance does not come cheap, however. Politiken recently revealed that Denmark backtracked on a previous decision not to contribute toward the financing of five NATO drones in the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) project after pressure from American president Barack Obama.

“The USA perceives Denmark as a core NATO country and want us in the central part of the alliance,” Hækkerup said. “This relates to the AGS project, for instance. So the decision to resume our involvement has been met with considerable satisfaction in Washington.”

The drones are part of a so-called SmartDefense system which involves the pooling of resources between NATO members and reduces the reliance on the US hardware by European forces that was experienced in the NATO operation in Libya last year.