Compromise on Afghanistan force
The Swedish center-right government has reached agreement with the two largest opposition parties on the future of the Swedish forces in Afghanistan.
The compromise was presented at a joint press conference Monday afternoon. Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin and Peter Eriksson, one of the two co-spokespersons for the Greens, joined Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to announce the agreement.
The new plan will put a stronger focus on bilateral aid and Swedish troops will have more of a supporting role and not take part in active war fare in the future. Reinfeldt said he hopes that the full responsibility to maintain security in the country can be handed over to Afghan forces by 2014. But for now there are no plans to withdraw or decrease the number of troops in Afghanistan.
"What we area saying for 2011 is that the troops we have now, about 500, will remain during 2011 and that we might be able to decrease the number of troops by 2012," he said.
But, he added, the decisions must always be based on the situation on the ground and a troop withdrawal will only be possible if the situation is stable.
Sweden currently has around 500 soldiers serving with the Isaf force. Five so far have died in combat. Under the agreement, a reduction in the size of the force would begin in 2012, with the hope of a complete phase-out by 2014.
The Left party has been most adamant about bringing home the 500 Swedish Isaf soldiers as soon as possible. Party leader Lars Ohly expressed his disappointment that the Social Democrat and Green parties abandoned the joint position on the issue they adopted with the Left before September’s election loss.
“The policies we stood for in the campaign are now only represented by the left party in parliament,” he said.
But this, according to Ohly, does not mean the end to the Red-Green cooperation.