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Iceland – Afghanistan Embassy

Iceland

Official name of country: Republic of Iceland

Capital: Reykjavik

Official languages: Icelandic

Population: 319 756 (2008 estimate)

Size: 103 001 square kilometers

Currency: ISK (Icelandic krona)

Form of government: Republic

Head of state: President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

Head of government: Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Government

Iceland is a constitutional republic with a parliamentary government, also called semi-presidential system or dual executive.
The two executives are not equal, neither in power nor in responsibility. The Icelandic constitution states that the president,
or those who exercise presidential authority in absence of the president, cannot be held accountable for executive acts. In contrast,
the ministers of cabinet are held individually responsible for all executive acts and may be subject to impeachment by the Althing.
This also reflects the balance of power between the two executives.

The president of Iceland is elected by direct, secret ballot, and must be at least 35 years of age.
The president appoints the ministers to cabinet, and has the power to dismiss them.
Also, the president’s signature validates the legislative acts passed in parliament when co-signed by the prime minister.
The election term is four years, and there is no term-limit for the presidential position. The Icelandic Althing is the world’s oldest parliament;
dating back to year 930 AC. It was originally an assembly of free men who voiced their opinions here and passed laws and judgements in ongoing feuds.
Today it is a parliamentary multiparty congress with a tradition for coalition government and consensual working style. Since 1991,
the Althing is a unicameral parliament with 12 standing committees.
These committees have members distributed proportionally to parliamentary representation.
The committees prepare cases for the general assembly, as in all the other Nordic countries.

Diplomatic Relations

The Icelandic diplomatic relations with Afghanistan are through their Permanent Mission to NATO in Brussels.
Iceland has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) since its foundation in 1949.
Membership of the Alliance and the Defence Agreement with the United States of America has been the two main pillars of Iceland’s security policy.

With the changing security environment and the transformation of NATO, the contribution of Iceland to the Alliance has undergone major change.
While having no standing army, Iceland contributes to NATO operations with both financial contributions and civil personnel.
Furthermore the Delegation serves as Embassy of Iceland to Afghanistan.

To learn more about the Icelandic mission to NATO, please visit:
http://www.iceland.org/nato/

Military Contribution

Iceland has no military force and their military expenditures are thus 0% of the GDP. Under a 1951 bilateral agreement;
defence was provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik.
However, all US military forces in Iceland were withdrawn as of October 2006; although wartime defence of Iceland remains a NATO commitment.
In April 2007, Iceland and Norway signed a bilateral agreement providing for Norwegian aerial surveillance and defence of Icelandic airspace.
As a result of this situation, Iceland does not contribute military personnel to any international operation in the world.
Iceland regards itself as a pacifist nation, a self-image that has very positive connotations for the Icelandic population.
Icelandic international assistance continues to be dominated by civilian components.
Iceland’s membership in NATO is merely a defence agreement where Iceland provides territory for bases and Alliance control over airspace in exchange for basic force protection.

However, during the last decade, peacekeeping and crisis management has been on the agenda for Iceland.
Because Iceland is a founding member of the Alliance and because the country’s military resources are miniscule,
most of its effort in Afghanistan goes through NATO. The Icelandic contribution is lead through the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU).
Under this unit, approximately 100 people are willing to join in international missions at short notice.
The unit is responsible for the hiring, preparation and training of personnel and general supervision of its activities.
The personnel deployed participate in peacekeeping operations and are normally Icelandic policemen, Coastguards, doctors
and medical personnel trained by the Norwegian Armed Forces. At times they have also participated in the clearance of mines and cluster bombs,
disarmament of child soldiers and other activities more often associated with UN chapter 6 than with NATO.

Development Assistance

Most of Iceland’s efforts in Afghanistan go through NATO. Iceland’s participation in peace-building and reconstruction in Afghanistan
is one of the major long-term projects of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit. Iceland contributes personnel for KAIA and ISAF HQ in Kabul and
the PRT in Chaghcharan. Currently there are 15 Icelanders deployed in Afghanistan. The personnel at KAIA carry out various support and management functions.
At ISAF headquarters Iceland contributes a public information officer as well as a member of staff of the Senior Civilian Representative and a political advisor.
The PRT teams consist of surveillance and development officers.