Thursday, August 26, 2010

Denmark has turned down a NATO request to send F-16 fighters to Afghanistan

Denmark has turned down a NATO request to send F-16 fighters to Afghanistan as it believes it has done enough for the international military mission there, the foreign minister said Thursday.

"We are one of the countries that contributes the most to Afghanistan," Foreign Minister Lene Espersen told the media after a meeting of parliament's foreign affairs committee.

"This is why we rejected the NATO request" which was also made to other member countries, she said.

Espersen said the committee "has a strong desire to scale down (Denmark's military) engagement" in Afghanistan as the Danish defense budget was "under pressure" and the government "is under no obligation to do more" there.

Denmark "can be proud" of its role in Afghanistan, she said, adding that "it's up to other countries to play a role and meet (NATO's) demands".

The F-16 requested by NATO is a multi-role fighter aircraft that is seen as highly maneuverable.

Denmark has 750 troops in Afghanistan serving in the NATO-led ISAF force, mainly in the violence-torn Helmand province, and proportionally has suffered the heaviest losses of any ISAF nation with 34 combat deaths while two more soldiers died in other circumstances.

It hopes to withdraw all its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has said.

NATO including the United States has 141,000 troops in the country, with numbers set to peak at 150,000 in coming weeks as efforts escalate to quell the Taliban insurgency, which began after U.S.-led forces brought down their government for sheltering Al-Qaeda leaders following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Most of those deployed under a 30,000-strong troop surge ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama are heading to Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south, though others are going north to reinforce small bases run by NATO allies.

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