Determine the fate of the Norwegian Iraq force

Liv Signe NavarseteLiv Signe Navarsete.Photo: Sogn og Fjordane Sp.

Norway’s contribution to the fight against the Islamic State (IS) should be primarily humanitarian, not military, believes the Senterpartiet (The Center).

Soon, the fate of the Norwegian force in northern Iraq will be settled.

Already by Monday, the matter may be a theme when Parliament’s expanded foreign and defense committee meet, reported NTB news agency.

Senterpartiet did not support Norways’ sending of 120 troops to Iraq the last time the case was brought into question, said the party’s foreign policy spokeswoman, Liv Signe Navarsete.

‘We believed that Norway should step up its humanitarian efforts instead.
This is where Norway can make a difference. We are not a military superpower’, she said.

Parliament will shortly decide whether Norway will maintain, increase or scale down its military involvement in the fight against IS in Iraq. The mandate expires in March.

The Norwegian Iraqi contribution was to be included in the coalition fight against the extremist group, IS. Up to 120 Norwegian personnel, are working to build up the capacity of Iraqi forces in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

Norway’s military involvement is politically sensitive, and Senterpartiet (The Center), and the Sosialistisk Venstreparti (SV) are among the parties who have been most concerned.

Navarsete emphasized that she does not know what decision the government will bring to Parliament, and that the party supports the Norwegian personnel who have been sent out once the decision has been taken.

‘But our question is; what do we seek to achieve, and what are the political objectives? Should we be part of a long period of conflict ahead?

We know very little about the exit strategy, and how society will be built up in these countries’, she said.

The fight against IS progresses along a number of different tracks. The military effort is just one of them.

Another important area is stopping recruitment of foreign fighters, for combat, fighting Islamic State ‘ideology’, stopping financing of the group, and stabilising areas where IS has been deprived of control.

The battle for the IS-controlled metropolis of Mosul in Iraq has been raging for several months.

In Syria, being prepared for the Battle of Raqqa, which is still under IS’s control, and is considered the group’s ‘capital’.

Norway decided in May last year to send a force of about 60 soldiers to be based in Jordan, to train Syrian rebel groups in the border area between Jordan, Iraq and Syria.

The Kurdish forces who are fighting IS in northern Iraq (and who are Norway’s allies), have repeatedly received harsh criticism from human rights groups.

In November last year, Human Rights Watch wrote that Kurdish troops in disputed areas of northern Iraq have repeatedly levelled Arab homes,buildings and entire villages to the ground.

In January last year, a report from Amnesty International said that the Kurdish forces in northern Iraq had destroyed a number of Arab villages, and displaced residents because they suspected them of sympathising with IS.

Defence Minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide (Conservative Party), called Amnesty’s information ‘very worrisome and unacceptable’.

‘International humanitarian law has always been part of the training provided to and by Norwegian troops in Iraq’, she said.

 

Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today

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