Taleban’s role discussed as PM visits troops in Afghanistan

Red Cross says that an agreement with Taleban is needed to ensure safe working conditions for aid organisations

Danish troops in Afghanistan received a visit from PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt today, who praised her countrymen for their efforts in the country.

"This is the second time that I have visited Helmand as prime minister," Thorning-Schmidt said in a press release. "And once again, it fills me with pride to see how significant the Danish contribution has been."

In addition to visiting Danish troops and personnel in Helmand province, Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) also met with British and American military leaders. Earlier this month, Thorning-Schmidt also hosted outgoing Afghan president Hamid Karzai and pledged Denmark's continued support beyond its military pullout later this summer.  

During her visit, Thorning-Schmidt admitted that there would be inevitable setbacks when international forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

"There can be some areas that we lose control over and the security situation can be tricky," she told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. "It is difficult to ensure security outside of the cities, so in that regard there can of course be setbacks. We've said that all along, but it doesn't change the fact that the Afghans are ready to take responsibility."

Fears of Taleban control

The military intelligence agency, Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), has warned that the Taleban will reclaim its power after international forces leave. 

The potential re-emergence of the Taleban led Anders Ladekarl, the secretary general of the Red Cross in Denmark, to say that if aid organisations are to serve Afghan civilians, it must be conceded that the Taleban will come to more or less control parts of the country. 

"We have a naive belief that [NATO-led ISAF forces] and the Afghan government have control over Afghanistan," Ladekarl told Ritzau. "But large parts of the country are in reality controlled by the Taleban and it is hard for us to operate in those areas."


Ladekarl said the the Red Cross and other aid organisations will be under increased pressure after international forces leave the country in 2014 and that it will be necessary to enter into agreements with those who control the area.

"If during the peace negotiations it is accepted that the Taleban are in control of certain areas, it will make it easier for us to be a legal partner that can safely work in those areas," he said. 

But the notion of acknowledging the Taleban did not sit well with Denmark's largest opposition party, Venstre (V). 

"I disagree completely with Anders Ladekarl," V's defence spokesperson, Troels Lund Poulsen, told Ritzau. "The Taleban is a terrorist organisation that operates via terror, death and destruction."

Poulsen acknowledged that there are "areas where the Taleban is strong" but rejected Ladekarl's notion that they control nearly half of the country's provinces.


Søren Espersen, the foreign affairs spokesperson for fellow opposition party Dansk Folkeparti, admitted that "many areas are controlled by the Taleban" but said that "we shouldn't make political agreements for the Red Cross's sake." 


It was announced in March that Denmark would pull its last infantry soldier out of Afghanistan by late summer, ahead of schedule of an original withdrawal plan that called for the last soldier to leave by February 2014. Forty-three Danish troops have lost their lives since Denmark joined international forces in Afghanistan in 2002.