Long-awaited conflict report: The US calls and Denmark comes running

Report looks into Danish involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo

The long-awaited investigation into Denmark’s participation in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo has finally come to a conclusion following the publication of a report looking into Danish efforts in conflicts from 1993-2004.

The report, which the red-bloc government launched in 2011 to uncover the political decisions that led to Danish participation in the three wars, found that Denmark tends to answer the bell when the US comes calling.

“Denmark’s military engagement generally reflects the political decision-makers’ desire to accommodate US wishes regarding military contribution. Denmark’s specific contributions to military operations are formed, rather than decided, by central ministers, officials and representatives from Danish Defence in dialogue with allies – mostly the US,” the report found.

“The government has a minimalist practice of information when working with the Foreign Affairs Committee. Typically, the government consults with the Foreign Affairs Committee late in the process.”

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Watered down 
The investigation was discontinued by the current blue-bloc government in 2015, just before key individuals – such as former PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the former foreign minister, Per Stig Møller – were to be interviewed.

A year later, intense criticism forced the government to enter into a compromise with Parliament that led to the investigation continuing, but with a smaller scope that didn’t involve taking a stance regarding the legality of the Danish participation in the conflicts.

Two researchers, a historian and a political scientist are behind the investigation, which was conducted in order to ensure a true and fair description to help learn from the past – but not point fingers at anyone or assess blame.

The researchers found that Denmark tends to join the US in conflicts, not in duress or due to promises of reward, but rather when the Danes ‘sense’ developments abroad and align themselves to the arena in which the US typically stands.

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Allies over strategy
The researchers found that Denmark was quick to show solidarity with the US in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks – a decision that would prove paramount to the Danes joining the US in Afghanistan. The Iraq situation, spearheaded by Fogh Rasmussen, was similar.

The researchers questioned whether Denmark’s military contributions in the three conflicts were driven by alliances rather than humanitarian concerns. Moreover, they suggested that Denmark’s military engagement is less influenced by strategic choices and long-term analyses.

The three conflicts ended up costing the lives of over 50 Danish soldiers: 43 in Afghanistan, eight in Iraq and one in Kosovo.

Download the full report here (in Danish).