“I am looking forward to getting a first-hand impression of the situation in the country. The international engagement in Afghanistan is in a transitional phase: Afghan security forces are gradually taking over responsibility for security and the country is preparing for presidential elections in 2014,” said Mr Støre.
“Although the military efforts will gradually be scaled down, Norway’s considerable civilian engagement in Afghanistan will be continued,” he added.
Mr Støre’s visit will include meetings with President Karzai, other politicians and Afghan civil society representatives. During the course of the year, Norway and Afghanistan will sign a strategic cooperation agreement that will set the framework for their bilateral relations. Priority areas will be good governance, education and rural development.
“Norway will continue to promote good governance in Afghanistan. It is particularly important to strengthen the rights of women and improve their situation. It is encouraging to see that, just ten years after they were denied schooling under the Taliban, 40 % of school children are now girls. But there is still a long way to go,” said Mr Støre.
Norway in Afghanistan
Norway’s total military engagement in Afghanistan is significant. It is contributing almost 700 soldiers to the NATO-led ISAF force, including in the form of a Quick Reaction Force stationed in Mazar-e-Sharif, the Norwegian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Meymaneh and a unit of Special Forces in the Kabul area. Last month, the government had revised the plan of Norway’s presence in Afghanistan. Accordingly, Norwegian military efforts would continue at about the same level, while the training and logistic activities would be intensified.
Last year in June, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had announced they would gradually reduce the number of Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan.