Parliament wants Finland to stay on in Afghanistan
The Finnish Parliament wants the government to draft an extensive report on Finland’s possible continued involvement in the crisis management operation in Afghanistan after 2014 when the NATO-led ISAF operation moves into a new phase.
There was extensive agreement in Parliament on Thursday that Finland should continue to be involved in Afghanistan when the focus of ISAF turns toward training.
Parliament discussed the government’s Afghanistan report according to which the focus of Finnish activities will move in the direction of civilian crisis management and development cooperation, as military the presence decreases.
The only dissenting voices came from the opposition Left Group, which feels that Finland should leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
Speaking on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Timo Soini (Finns Party) said that Finland’s presence in Afghanistan is about humanity and solidarity.
Soini pondered what kind of an example Finland would give as a Nordic democracy “if we preach about human rights, education, and the status of women and then just leave. We can’t do that.”
Defence Committee chairman Jussi Niinistö (Finns Party) took a slightly different view than Soini.
Niinistö asked if Finnish national defence would benefit more from sufficient reservist training exercises than from the Afghanistan operation, which involves a limited number of soldiers. He also said that “traditional crisis management tasks” are more appropriate for Finland than the type of mission that is taking place in Afghanistan.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) said that the presence in Afghanistan does not deviate in any way from Finland’s own defence needs.
NATO will hold its summit in Chicago in May this year, and is expected to discuss the time after 2014, as well as the sharing of costs. Tuomioja says that the meeting is still in the planning stage, for which reason he did not want to give any more details about Finland’s thoughts.
“It is even a bit worrisome that the cooperation of the international community and preparations are not at a fully sufficient level in such an important matter.”
Finland has about 195 soldiers in Afghanistan. The entire ISAF operation involves 130,000 soldiers from 50 different countries.
Most of the Finns operate in the Mazar-i-Sharif region in the north of the country. This year 50 Finnish soldiers will be returning to Finland.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland has deployed special forces unit in Afghanistan (22.2.2012)
Finnish soldiers again under fire in Afghanistan (3.2.2012)
Parliament discusses government Afghanistan report (13.12.2011)
Finland’s new veterans (29.11.2011)
Finnish commander says Finns and Swedes have "probably inflicted casualties" in fights with Afghan rebels (22.11.2011)
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)