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More Finnish Peacekeepers Wanted For Afghanistan

The commander of the Swedish contingent in Afghanistan has said that he would like to see Finland contribute more peacekeeping troops for duty in the north of the country. However, he does not think it would be sensible for Finland to take responsibility for operations in an area of its own, as Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva has suggested.

Finnish Defense Minister Jyri Häkämies was unwilling to Monday to take a position on the idea put forth by the Swedish commander.

Finland has been considering reforms in the current crisis management system in Afghanistan that would allow Finland and other Nordic countries to take responsibility for operations in their own areas. The issue was brought up by Foreign Minister Kanerva two weeks ago.

Responding to questions from YLE in Mazar-I- Sharif, Sweden's Colonel Mats Danielsson was unwilling to back a division of responsibilities.

"Because of the large size of the area, it would be good to increase the number of troops. Finland and Sweden could do this together," said Danielson.

He pointed out that the present staff headquarters base for the peacekeeping operation will need more soldiers when Polish, Danish and Romanian contingents leave the area in August.

It would be expensive to establish an area of responsibility for the Finns, as it would require the construction of a new base. Col. Danielsson did stress, however, that he was speaking in his own name, and not on behalf of Sweden.

The peacekeeping operation lead by Danielsson covers four northern provinces in Afghanistan. Sixty Finnish peacekeepers operate under his command at Mazar-I-Sharif. There are an additional 25 Finns serving under Norwegian command at Maimana.

Finnish minister cautious on proposal Finland's Minister of Defence Jyri Häkämies, who is currently on a visit to northern Afghanistan, did not take a stand on the suggestion by the Swedish commander, neither is he in a rush to back Foreign Minister Kanerva's idea of separate areas of responsibility. "The way I understand it, his proposal was that Finland would assume independent command responsibility. Of course, one alternative would be to strengthen the Swedish area with more Finnish participation. Another would be to get independent responsibility, something that surely would be on offer," he stated. According to Häkämies all available alternatives will be evaluated. YLE

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