Denmark to pull out of Afghanistan early

The British base that houses the Danish troops will be disbanded in August, leaving the Danes with nowhere to stay – “We won,” DF spokesperson says

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) has revealed that the last Danish infantry soldier will leave Afghanistan by late summer this year, and not by the end of 2014 as was planned.

The news means that Squad 15, the last Danish infantry squad remaining in Afghanistan, will not be replaced when they ship back to Denmark in August.

The early withdrawal is being attributed to British troops being called home before time as well. Camp Price, where the Danish soldiers are stationed, is run by the British and will be closed down in August, prompting an early return for the Danish soldiers.

"Denmark is one of the countries that have carried the toughest load in Afghanistan, and Danish soldiers have been on the front line since 2002,” Thorning-Schmidt said today in her weekly press conference. “They have provided an invaluable service for our safety and they have been part of helping the Afghans take care of their own security.”

A number of Danish defence personnel will remain in the country in order to train the Afghan police force and to man special units and tanks.

The original withdraw plan, revealed in January, stated that the last Danish unit wouldn’t be withdrawn until the end of 2014. According to that plan, the last Danish infantry soldier would be withdrawn by February 2014 at the latest, while the tank units would leave by the middle of the year and the last Danish battle unit would leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But the prime minister said that the Afghan security forces have prepared themselves quicker than expected to take over the reins from their Danish counterparts.

“The situation is that the Danish and British forces determined that there shouldn’t be new squads when the current team leaves for home in August. After that we will support only with our tanks,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

Despite the withdrawal of the Danish military presence in Afghanistan, the government is dedicated to putting greater focus on efforts to aid civil society. To this end, Denmark will contribute to the development of the Afghan police force and will give more than two billion kroner to Afghanistan in financial support. Denmark has also proposed a globally-committed relief effort to help Afghans.

The support will go to the development of the embattled nation, as well as promoting sound government, financial growth and improving the local security forces so that they can take on Taleban rebels without foreign assistance, according to Marie Krarup, the defence spokesperson for Dansk Folkeparti (DF).

"Our withdrawal depends on British and US plans. It doesn’t make sense to leave our soldiers standing alone in the desert,” Krarup told Ritzau news service. “We have made a huge difference and we have won that war. We went down to beat al-Qaeda and did so. Unfortunately we cant completely eradicate the Taleban. The Afghans must do that themselves.”

In 2011, Denmark had 720 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. By the end of 2012, that number had dropped to 650.

Forty-three Danish troops have lost their lives since Denmark joined international forces in Afghanistan in 2002.