Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store has announced that Norway intends to cut its Afghanistan troop numbers towards 2014.
“Downsizing is a logical consequence. Security responsibility will now be transferred to the Afghans themselves,” he said.
The Foreign Minister made his remarks in a visit to Norwegian troops based in Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday. However, he did not specify how many soldiers would be withdrawn in coming months.
On Sunday, the Foreign Minister also met the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, to discuss his surprise sacking of 62 Afghan MPs, VG reported.
“We must ensure that Afghanistan also has a political system in place that is able to take over responsibility for security,” he told NRK. “The situation is so serious that in the worst case it could lead to a constitutional crisis.”
However, even as FM Støre discussed aid, corruption and increasing signs of unrest in Afghanistan, the diplomatic situation remains tense. According to NRK, he specifically mentioned the Kabul Bank affair, where Afghanistan’s central bank was simply handing out large sums of money to members of the Afghan elite.
A former vice president of Afghanistan, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was caught carrying 321 million kroner in cash whilst travelling through the United Arab Emirates in 2009.
“Such [things] are very negative, and I made it clear that continued Norwegian aid depends on the trend going in the right direction,” said the Foreign Minister. Afghanistan receives 750 million kroner per year from Norway, making it the largest recipient of Norwegian aid.
Norway’s decision to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan follows President Obama’s announcement last week that America will withdraw 33,000 of its 100,000-strong contingent by summer 2012. 5,000 soldiers will return home next month, with another 5,000 due to leave by the end of this year.
Since 2002, Norway has spent 6.5 billion kroner on the military operation. Just over 500 Norwegian soldiers are currently serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the country.