Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt visits Afghanistan
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is on a visit to Afghanistan to mark a symbolic turning point after a 10-year Swedish military presence in the country.
A ceremony was held at the Swedish base in Mazari- Sharif to mark the transition to a civil operation over the next two years. In addition, the troops at the Swedish base are now to have a civilian chief. Sweden has been involved in Afghanistan since the winter of 2001-02, when the international forces were set up after the 9/11 attacks and the US-led invasion. What was just a small Swedish presence at the time has now become a major operation with more than 500 soldiers.
However, at the end of 2012 Sweden will start to withdraw its troops and increase the number of civilian jobs. Speaking to the TT news agency, Carl Bildt said that since Afghanistan is Sweden’s second largest aid recipient, it is only natural that there is a transition to a civilian leadership for the operation. The minister also said that he believed it is important that the changes to be implemented by Swedish and other international players should be made ahead of the presidential election in Afghanistan in the autumn of 2014.
On Monday 12 March 2012, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt met Muhammad Atta Noor, the governor of the Balkh province of northern Afghanistan, and focused on the weekend’s killings in Kandahar, when a US soldier opened fire against civilians. Carl Bildt said he deeply regretted the incident, one of several recently that has deepened the mistrust between Afghans and international forces. And, at a press conference the minister said: “It is understandable that this sparks a reaction. We must be fully aware that we are guests in this country, which we are here to help. We must act as guests.