Politicians eager to keep soldiers at war

Skills developed through involvement in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan could be lost unless the military finds new international missions to join, the army command argues

As Danish troops exit Afghanistan over the coming weeks, a broad majority of political parties want the Danish military to play an active role in international security missions.

Speaking to Berlingske newspaper, the defence spokespersons for the government parties Socialdemokraterne (S) and Radikale, as well as opposition parties Venstre and Konservative, confirmed their wish to send Danish troops into global conflicts.

“We should play an active role in international security,” defence spokesperson Bjarne Laustsen (S) told Berlingske. “We are not a neutral country. We want to take part.”

In a written comment to the newspaper, the foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), confirmed that the government would consider sending troops to conflict zones such as Mali and the Golan Heights.

The Danish military has played an active role in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. This, according to Jens Lønborg from the army command, Hærens Operative Kommando (HOK), has allowed the Danish military to become highly skilled at combat operations.

“We have never been better at fighting or training soldiers from other countries,” Lønborg told Berlingske. “We managed the enormous logistical challenges in Afghanistan and we are now able to survive on next to nothing. It’s clear that we will lose our sharpness after a long period without similar missions. If such a long period without relevant missions arises, it can affect our ability to recruit and keep our staff.”

Lønborg led Danish troops in Afghanistan in 2008 and added that the army was keen to make use of its skills. But right-wing opposition party Dansk Folkeparti (DF) argues that they should not be sent out unless Denmark is specifically threatened, as was the case with Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Danish troops should only be used to defend Denmark,” DF's defence spokesperson, Marie Krarup, told Berlingske.

Per Clausen, a spokesperson for far-left party Enhedslisten, also expressed hesitation about sending Danish troops into more dangerous conflicts.

“Even before the Danish troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan, politicians are looking for a new war to participate in," Clausen wrote in a press release. "After looking at the experiences from Afghanistan and Iraq, the eagerness to join a new war is shocking.” 

Denmark contributed special forces following the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and continued to contribute forces under the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, ISAF. Forty-three Danish soldiers have been killed and 211 have been injured in Afghanistan since 2002.

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