No Extra Troops to Afghanistan

The Swedish ISAF-force in Afghanistan will be extended till the end of next year, but no more troops will be added, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt announced today.

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan troops are proving to be a contentious issue among the Swedish Social Democrats, which have their annual meeting next week.

The Swedish Forces had asked for an increase in their number of troops in Afghanistan from 500 to 565 next year. But Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Swedish Radio News that this will probably not happen. Instead he would like to strengthen the civilian component in the mission to Afghanistan.

"Experience from other countries show that they have benefited from having a more civilian leadership in their overall operation in Afghanistan," says Bildt, adding that it is important that both Sweden and the EU support the state building process in Afghanistan.

In the Swedish opposition, the Afghanistan mission is a contentious issue. The Greens and the Left party have demanded an end date to the mission.

The leadership of the largest opposition party - the Social Democrats - has so far not expressed similar demands, but within the party there are rumblings going on over a mission that is seen to have changed a lot since it was first introduced.

Ahead of the party congress next week, several member groups are now demanding a withdrawal of the troops. Cajsa Widqvist from Nyköping represents one of the critical voices.

"We do not think that Sweden should be part of waging a war, which is what is going on in Afghanistan at the moment. Sweden should of course support Aghanistan, but that should happen by supporting the civilian life and through the organisations that are working to support the Afghani population," she says.

It was the Social Democrats that approved of the initial UN-mission in 2001. Since 2003 the Un-mission is led by Nato, which is controversial within the party.

"We have moved from our position that we are supposed to be very neutral, and there has not been any decision along the way," she says.

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