Radikale: Afghanistan War was a mistake

Party’s defence spokesperson says that Denmark should never have tried to introduce democracy and human rights on Afghanistan using force

It was a mistake to go to war against the Taleban. So says the government coalition partner Radikale as Danish troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan after almost 12 years of conflict.

Zenia Stampe, Radikale's defence spokesperson, argues that while it was right to fight al-Qaeda training camps that were protected by the Taleban, the ambition to introduce democracy was flawed.

“I understand that the debate is very sensitive, but we sent our troops out on an impossible mission,” Stampe told Berlingske newspaper.

“We were never able to defeat the Taleban and it was an illusion to believe that in the space of ten years we could transform an extremist society into a democracy," Stampe continued. "The military cannot be blamed because they did as they were told, but I think it is important that we can discuss and learn from the war even if it means that soldiers learn that we sent them out on the wrong mission. We have lost a lot of Danish lives in the process and it would be a shame if we weren’t able to be critical. It doesn’t reduce how heroic our soldiers have been.”

Denmark has contributed forces following both the American-led invasion in 2001 and the subsequent NATO-led security mission. Danish military involvement in Afghanistan has cost the lives of 43 Danes and total costs of some 15 billion kroner.

According to Stampe, the international forces should have started training the Afghan security forces much earlier instead of battling the Taleban directly.

 “We could have defeated the al-Qaeda training camps and then left the country. Or we could have from the start educated the Afghans. But along the way we joined the collective illusion that we could defeat the Taleban and introduce democracy,” Stampe said. “The lesson is that we should not go into a country and attempt to introduce democracy and human rights using force.”

Stampe’s statements are the first to seriously question the Danish strategy in Afghanistan and arrive despite the fact that Radikale are part of a broad political majority that has supported Danish involvement in Afghanistan.

Bjarne Laustsen, the defence spokesperson for coalition leaders Socialdemokraterne, argued that while it was important to be critical about Denmark’s involvement in Afghanistan, it was not a total error.

“We should have started to train Afghan forces earlier and looked at an exit strategy from the start,” Laustsen told Berlingske. “Our losses in Afghanistan were far too great. Too many Danes were killed. But I don’t think it was wrong to have a goal and we have made real progress in Afghanistan.”

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