Prime Minister Stoltenberg writes about Norway's engagement in Afghanistan
In an article published in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg writes about Norway's reasons for further engagement in Afghanistan. Read an unofficial translation of the article below.
The Reason Norway is in Afghanistan.
By Jens Stoltenberg
Prime Minister (Labour Party)
No free media
The Afghan female politician Shukria Barakzai visited Norway last Week. According to Klassekampen on 16 November she stated the following about the situation in her home country: “This is a country where girls were not able to go to school. This was a country where no one could talk about human rights; there were no sign of freedom of the press or a proper constitution”.
When Afghanistan’s Education Minister Haneef Atmar visited Norway recently he said: "Norwegian soldiers are contributing so that our children can attend school. Norway has led the way in creating a better balance between civil and military international development to Afghanistan”
Was denied to go to school
These are voices we ought to listen to. Afghanistan has experienced decades of occupation, civil war and tyranny. After the Soviet invasion and a devastating civil war, the country got a Taleban regime where human rights were set aside in a manner that we have rarely seen before. Girls were denied schooling. Female teachers were denied to teach. Television and music was prohibited. The healthcare system broke down.
Simultaneously the Taleban made the country a safe haven for other movements that used terror and extremism as a weapon.. In this environment Al-Qaida were able to operate freely and plan attacks far outside the region. The most dramatic one being against the US on September 11 2001.
We are here to stabilize the country and contribute with security.
The UN Security Council has repeatedly stated that the situation in Afghanistan is a threat to international peace and security. The UN refers to violence and terror-acts by theTaliban, Al-Qaeda, other illegal armed groups and those that are taking part in the narcotics trade, as well as the links between these groups.
Security and assistance
In 2001 the UN Security Council decided to establish the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), where Norway is participating today. ISAF’s Mission is to contribute with security and assistance to the Afghan authorities, as well as making sure that UN personell and Non-Governmental Organizations to have the possibility to conduct their work in a safe manner
The first two years it was not a NATO operation, but an UN operation.. Then it became a NATO operation- after a wish by the UN and also with a clear UN mandate. ISAF consists today of 36 countries: 25 NATO member countries and 11 other countries. It includes 40,000 personnel.
Back to the reign of terror
When ISAF is engaged in war-like actions, it is because movements such as the Taleban and Al-Qaida do not want stability and reconstruction. They are trying to force the country back to the reign of terror which was ruling until 2001, and which made it a safe haven for the planning of terrorist acts. These elements want the international community to leave Afghanistan. The population, the UN and humanitarian organizations wants ISAF to stay.
One Week ago we experienced that Norwegian forces took part in combat operations. The mission was to prevent the Taleban and other criminal groups to get control over areas where are own and Afghan forces are located. If we had not done it now, we would have given the insurgents an operational freedom to operate in our areas and we would have faced a more serious threat later.
We are here to provide the country’s population with schools, healthcare and other basic services.
Norway is one of the biggest contributors to civil reconstruction of the country. Our contribution in 2007 is almost 480 Million NOK and totaling 2.6 billion since 2000. Some are asking for a stronger civilian effort in lieu of the military effort. The international civilian efforts should be strengthened. There is a need of both, and without security there will be no development. When Norwegian soldiers are patrolling in the north, they are contributing towards the stability that is necessary for the local society to get new schools and clinics, water supply and new roads.
And the effort works:
* Almost five million refugees have returned.
* During the Taleban no girls attended school. Today over six million children attend school, and out them more than two million are girls. Approximately 400,000 girls have started school, just this year.
* Norway is contributing to the construction of 82 schools in the Faryab province.
* There are now ten universities in the country, whilst there was only one, which was barely functioning, during the Taleban.
* 82 per cent of the population now has access to healthcare, compared to 9 per cent in 2002.
* 77 per cent of the children born in 2006 have been vaccinated against children diseases.
* The income per capita has increased rapidly in the last three years. The economic growth for this year is estimated to eight per cent.
* Infrastructure is being constructed, and a new bypass around the whole of Afghanistan will integrate part of the country which never before has been connected.
* According to the UN more than 60,000 former warriors have been disarmed and reintegrated back into society. The hard work with building up the afghan army and the afghan police is now in full progress.
Progress has been made. The country has got democratically elected President and a National Assembly. The Provincial Assembly has also been elected. The country has got a constitution. Soon new elections will be planned and carried out.
We are here to give the whole of the country a better governance structure and functioning institutions.
But military presence and civil reconstruction is not sufficient. Norway’s is now aiming to properly build-up of Afghanistan’s public sector. The long-term goal is to create a better governance structure, and tie the country together to make room for men and women in the construction of the society.
Police and Justice
Our goal is that the average Afghan is able to trust his own government and be loyal to it. And, we are aiming to build up the police and justice-system, which today are the weakest institutions in the country. 18 police instructors and 7 advisors from the Justice sector are now in Afghanistan.
To be able to reach our goals the Afghans must do their part. Therefore we frequently raise issues such as corruption, the misuse of power and human rights violations. We should be impatient and enduring at the same time.
A collective vision
Afghanistan needs a stable period with reconciliation after decades of war. The alternative to Norwegian and international civil and military development is an Afghanistan which is not at peace with itself. To pull out would be a genuflection to the Taleban and a continuation of violence and terror. We owe our soldiers and development workers thanks and acclaim for the efforts they are doing towards peace and reconstruction. To the defense of core universal values.