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Defence Minister: Situation in Afghanistan Fragile

Finland's Defence Minister Jyri Häkämies said the security situation in Afghanistan is fragile. Häkämies is currently in the war-torn country to become familiar with Finland's crisis management operations.

Häkämies arrived Saturday in Kabul at the Finnish base, Camp Katariina. He is to become familiar with the Finnish crisis management operations in the north before returning to Kabul for political meetings.

Finland's official operating area is in northern Afghanistan, in Maimana. However, it's to be transferred to the regional centre Masr-i-Sharif. The new base will begin operations in August.

Häkämies said his trip is meant to demonstrate the government's appreciation to peacekeepers, who carry out critical work in extremely difficult conditions. He also said he wants to hear how the job could be carried out more efficiently in the future.

Upon arrival, Häkämies received a report on operations from Lieutenant Colonel Pertti Pullinen, who commands the Finnish forces.

Häkämies commented later on what he called the fragile security situation in Afghanistan. He said he would lend his support to the new report on Afghanistan to be handed over to Parliament.

"Personally, I have a positive view of the report. It has been years since we arrived in Afghanistan and the work is demanding and challenging," he said.

This autumn, the government intends to carry out extensive analysis on Finnish crisis management operations. Initially the government plans to evaluate current crisis management operations and obligations, and using it as a basis for future decisions.

A few weeks ago, Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva said the government is also considering revamping the current crisis management system in Afghanistan. The reforms would allow Finland and other Nordic countries to take responsibility for operations in their own areas.

Häkämies did not comment on the subject, but did say the decision would necessitate more Finnish forces in Afghanistan.

Häkämies: U.S. Hopes for Active Participation Häkämies also said the United States hopes that NATO and partner countries would increase their presence in Afghanistan. "The U.S. views this operation as a top priority. It's appealing to NATO countries, as well as partner states, to participate actively in the operation," Häkämies said in reference to last week's meeting between NATO and partner countries in Brussels. This autumn Häkämies travels to the U.S. where he will meet with Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. YLE / Jarkko Juselius

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