Historical archive

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen’s statement to the Storting on Norway’s contribution to international operations and overall involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004, Monday 15 December 2003

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen’s statement to the Storting on Norway’s contribution to international operations and overall involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004, Monday 15 December 2003

Translation from the Norwegian

Mr President,

In my statement here this afternoon, I will focus mainly on Norway’s overall involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. I will also take this opportunity to discuss some of the factors considered by the Government in connection with our participation in international operations in general. This includes an assessment of the international threats we are facing, the UN’s role as a peace-keeping body and the basis in international law for Norway’s participation in international operations. It also involves a discussion of the Government’s assessments and priorities in the light of the prevailing needs and available resources at any given time.

However, I would like to begin by commenting on the weekend’s dramatic event in Iraq – the arrest of Saddam Hussein. We welcome the news that the coalition forces have arrested the former Iraqi dictator. Saddam Hussein can now be called to account for the serious crimes he has committed. This applies not least to the use of weapons of mass destruction, both against neighbouring countries and against the civilian population of Iraq.

We now hope that Hussein’s arrest will put a stop to the terrorist attacks in Iraq in the long term. This is essential in order to enable the reconstruction to proceed to the benefit of the Iraqi people. It is also important with a view to future political developments in Iraq.

Now it is important that Saddam Hussein is brought to justice in a manner that is fair, credible and legitimate.

In resolution 1483, the UN Security Council unanimously affirmed "the need for accountability for crimes and atrocities committed by the previous Iraqi regime".

It is a well-established principle of international law that the state concerned has the primary responsibility for prosecuting serious crimes. Thus, trying Saddam Hussein before an Iraqi tribunal would be fully in keeping with international law. However, we presume that such a trial will be in accordance with international law standards of independence, impartiality and due process of law.

The Iraqi Governing Council recently announced that such a tribunal will be set up. Moreover, immediately following Sadam Hussein’s arrest, members of the Council signalled that their intention was that he should be tried before an Iraqi court. It is too early to say when this will take place.

Mr President,

Since the end of the Cold War, a new pattern of conflict has emerged that is characterised by internal and regional conflicts and the interplay between them. Through most of the 1990s, this was the situation in the Balkans and parts of Africa. Today similar patterns of conflict are even more prevalent in Africa and in parts of Asia.

At the same time we are facing an entirely new – and global – constellation of threats. The terrorist attacks in the USA in September 2001 showed that international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction pose the most serious threats to our common security.

Only through a determined and concerted international effort will we be able to succeed in our fight against these new security threats. This is why it is so important for us to participate actively in the efforts to maintain the broad global coalition that was established in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in 2001.

In its efforts to combat these new security threats, the Government attaches decisive importance to the role the UN can – and shall – play. The UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. We must support the UN in its role and responsibility as a peace-keeping body. And we must help to ensure that the UN is provided with the resources it needs to carry out its tasks.

Experience has shown that there is a need for a broad range of instruments in connection with peace operations if they are to succeed. A military presence is often essential in order to facilitate political and economic progress. Police resources, assistance in building a judicial system, humanitarian aid and development assistance are also important elements in a more cohesive effort to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation.

Mr President,

As regards the criteria for Norwegian participation in such operations, there is one basic condition: a Norwegian commitment must be in accordance with international law. This means that any use of force must have a basis in international law, i.e. that it must be based on the consent of the parties, the right to individual or collective self-defence, or a mandate from the UN Security Council pursuant to Chapter VII or VIII of the UN Charter. Otherwise, there is no basis for a military contribution involving the use of force.

For a number of years Norway has been contributing substantially to various crisis management operations designed to prevent and suffering. Our contributions have been aimed at promoting political and economic development based on peace, security and stability. Experience shows that these goals can only be achieved by means of a broad-based international commitment in the political, humanitarian and security fields – in co-operation with local actors.

There is general agreement that we share the responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. In my view, the broad support for this part of Norway’s international engagement is a contributing factor to the role we are able to play in peace and reconciliation efforts and the confidence with which we are met.

The contributions of Norwegian NGOs are important to these efforts. The Government is therefore concerned that we should be able to continue to draw on these organisations’ resources and insights in the future in our efforts to alleviate suffering in conflict areas.

Mr President,

As the situation looks today, there is little doubt that Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo will be the three areas where the greater share of the Norwegian international military presence will be concentrated next year. Despite the fact that much of the debate revolves around Iraq and Afghanistan, we should not forget what NATO’s efforts have meant to stability and development in the Balkans. But we have not yet achieved our goal in Kosovo; the underlying problems and conflicts are still largely unresolved. Therefore, I envisage a continued, substantial international presence in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Mr President,

I would now like to give you a more detailed account of the basis for our planned involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq next year. Security and stability are also important conditions for political and economic progress. The challenges are considerable and call for a long-term, broad international commitment.

Many positive results have been achieved in Afghanistan within a short period of time. A country that lay in ruins after decades of civil war and misrule is now in the process of being slowly rebuilt, not least thanks to a comprehensive international assistance effort. The oppressive Taliban regime has been replaced by an inclusive political process of establishing a representative government for the country. Extensive reforms are being carried out in the educational sector, the health system and other parts of the public administration. But a great deal remains to be done. The unresolved problems and, above all, the difficult security situation require a long-term international commitment in the country, both military and political, in order to promote economic development.

The Bonn Agreement, which was negotiated under the auspices of the UN in December 2001, figures centrally in these efforts. The Agreement sets out the framework for re-establishing the rule of law and the further political process. In connection with this, a Constitutional Commission was appointed which has submitted a draft constitution, which is to be considered by a grand assembly, known as a Loya Jirga. This constitutional grand assembly is meeting just now.

According to the Bonn Agreement, national elections are to be held in summer 2004. It is not yet clear whether they will include the election of both a president and a national assembly. According to the draft constitution, the two elections do not necessarily have to be held at the same time. Therefore, it is thought to be most likely that a president will be elected first, and that a national assembly will be elected at a later date.

The International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF, plays a central role in ensuring that this process enjoys the necessary degree of legitimacy among the population. Armed groups with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaida are working actively to destabilise President Karzai’s Transitional Government. Warlords and regional leaders are seeking to undermine the Bonn process. In many cases local clan leaders do not seem to be very interested in having the power of the central government extended to their territory. Drug production, which is again on the rise, is helping to destabilise the situation even further.

Despite the fact that NATO has assumed responsibility for the ISAF operation and for continuing the US-led operation against the remaining terrorist cells in Afghanistan, it has proved extremely difficult to safeguard security outside Kabul. Moreover, the Transitional Government has little real control over the rest of the country. This is largely due to the strong position of the regional warlords.

NATO’s decision to assume leadership of ISAF is a clear indication of the responsibility the Alliance has assumed for security and stability in Afghanistan This is a difficult and demanding task. At the same time, it is a task that must be taken seriously by all NATO member countries. We cannot afford to fail. Therefore we must be prepared for the fact that NATO, and Norway as an Alliance member, will have to be in Afghanistan for a long time to come.

The purpose of the forthcoming gradual extension of the ISAF mandate beyond Kabul and the establishment of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or PRTs for short, is to enhance the Transitional Government’s ability to exercise its authority.

The PRTs’ most important task is to create stability and security in the areas where they are deployed, and thus directly and indirectly strengthen the influence of the Transitional Government, and thereby that of the central government. Directly by providing security, and indirectly by creating stability as a basis for other activities, primarily for economic reconstruction and improving living conditions for the Afghan civilian population.

At the same time the PRTs will have a civil element that will among other things have contact with the Afghan authorities and international aid organisations. The size of the civil element in each PRT will vary according to the situation in the area.

The deliberations now taking place in NATO with a view to increasing the number of PRTs have shown that this idea enjoys broad support. There is also general agreement that the new PRTs should be part of ISAF. President Karzai has written to the Secretary General of NATO expressing strong support for the plans for deploying more PRTs.

Norway has signalled that we are prepared to participate in a Nordic-British PRT which is being planned, provided that the teams are supplied with the necessary security support functions.

Safeguarding security in Afghanistan calls for the active participation of the Afghan people themselves. So far there has only been limited progress in the efforts to build up a national army, a border police force and a viable judicial system. Therefore there is a need to intensify international support in this area. It is absolutely essential that Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries make a positive and active contribution.

Mr President,

I would like to make a few comments about Norway’s efforts in Afghanistan.

Norway is taking an active part in the military operations in Afghanistan. Currently we are contributing a medical/surgical unit and a CIMIC Support Unit, in support of civil-military co-operation in ISAF. These units have a mission completion date of February 2004. In addition we recently deployed a guard and security force to help to ensure the safety of the meeting of the Loya Jirga that I have already mentioned. This has been highly appreciated by the Afghans and the international community. We have also previously taken part in operation Enduring Freedom by providing, among other things, special forces and F-16 combat aircraft.

The basis in international law for Norway’s military participation in operation Enduring Freedom is the exercise of collective self-defence as confirmed by Security Council resolution 1368. Norway’s participation in ISAF is based on Security Council resolution 1386 and the consent of the government in Kabul.

Mr President,

I hope that the arrest of Saddam Hussein will eventually result in the reduction or cessation of the terrorist attacks on civil and military targets in Iraq. At the same time it is important to recognise that the situation in the country will continue to pose considerable problems and challenges in the time to come. We are reminded of this almost daily. The security situation is extremely serious. Terrorist attacks are being directed at both civilian Iraqis and the international civil and military presence. The fact that the UN, the International Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations are being targeted shows perhaps more than anything else the gravity of the situation.

In this connection, I would like to remind the members of the Storting that the Government’s attitude to the military action that was undertaken this spring is well known: the Government considered that there was not sufficient basis in international law for taking military action against Iraq. We considered that this could not be done without a new Security Council resolution, and advocated instead that Hans Blix and the other weapons inspectors should continue their work.

However, this was not what happened. And now the question is what should be done to put the country back on its feet. We must base ourselves on the current situation. Our task now must be to help stabilise the situation in Iraq and take our share of the responsibility for the political and economic reconstruction of the country, as the Security Council has now called for twice, in resolutions 1483 and 1511.

The main challenge today is to establish an acceptable level of security. Unless we bring the violence and terror under control, we will be unable to establish the conditions necessary for political and economic development. There is absolutely no justification for the almost daily terrorist acts that are targeting civilians as well as military personnel. These are not acceptable means of achieving political goals.

We will have failed if we cannot establish a security situation in which the UN, NGOs and humanitarian personnel are able to carry out their work for the benefit of the Iraqi people. But I would also underline that stabilising the situation could have positive effects throughout the Middle East.

On the political side steps have been taken to pave the way for Iraqi self-government. We continue to support this development. The Government wants the transfer of authority from the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority to an Iraqi government to take place as quickly as possible. The US-led Interim Administration and the provisional Iraq Governing Council have agreed that a transitional government will be in place on 1 July and that a permanent new constitution will be drafted within the following two years. We must hope that the arrest of Saddam Hussein will give fresh impetus to the democratisation process. The many Iraqis who have lived in fear of Saddam Hussein can now take an active part in the efforts to create a new, free society in Iraq.

In addition to taking place quickly, it is equally important that the process has a sound foundation and enjoys legitimacy among the Iraqi people. Without this it will be difficult for the new political leaders in Iraq to act with the necessary authority.

In his report last Wednesday, Kofi Annan said that Iraq will probably need assistance in the form of a considerable military presence for several years to come. In his view, the Iraqi people must receive assurances that other states outside the US-led coalition are also prepared to contribute military forces if a new Iraqi government asks them to do so.

Mr Annan also emphasised that the increasing security problems in Iraq cannot be solved by military means alone. A political process is needed as well.

Mr President,

Our military participation in the International Stabilisation Force in Iraq has two components: a company of engineers that has been extended to include experts in the clearance of landmines and disposal of unexploded ordnance in the British area of operations, and a small number of staff officers in the Polish-led division.

The Norwegian military contributions to the stabilisation of Iraq have been in accordance with Security Council resolution 1483 of 22 May. They are of such a nature that under international law they do not give Norway the status of an occupying power. The premises for Norway’s contributions are clearly expressed in the agreements on which our participation is based in both the British and the Polish areas of operations.

On 16 October the Security Council adopted a further resolution – 1511 – on the situation in Iraq. Although there was previously a clear basis in international law for the Norwegian contribution to the stabilisation of Iraq, we must now base ourselves on the situation defined by resolution 1511. This says that stronger international military and police efforts will be essential in order to ensure stability and security in Iraq so that the necessary foundation can be laid for Iraqi self-government and for ensuring that UN activities can be safely carried out in the country. The resolution also authorises the taking of "all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq". This also provides a basis in international law for a broader range of international military contributions.

Mr President,

In recent months we have received several requests from like-minded countries for further contributions to the military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, including involvement in the establishment of a centre for the training of Iraqi police officers in Jordan. Requests have also been received from the UN, NATO and the EU. In resolution 1511 the Security Council calls for contributions to training and equipment in the police sector.

It is of course important that Norway continues to take its share of the responsibility for ensuring security and political and economic development in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, it is not possible to respond to all the requests for contributions we have received. We must therefore make independent assessments and assign priorities on the basis of current needs and available resources.

We plan to maintain our international military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan at about the same level as now during the first half of 2004. The Minister of Defence will be making a statement about this. I would like, however, to point out that the Government has decided to plan for a certain increase in our support for training of Afghan civil and border police forces.

The Government will come back to Norway’s participation in the second half of 2004 at a later date. This will have to be assessed in the light of the current needs and other countries’ contributions. We will also have to take account of our other international commitments, including our participation in NATO’s new response force.

The UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have estimated the cost of reconstruction in Afghanistan to be NOK 210 billion and in Iraq about NOK 235 billion up to 2007.

Our development co-operation with Afghanistan will be intensified when the country is given the status of partner country next year. Next year’s development assistance will continue to be based on a coherent approach, with support for the political process, for improving security and for alleviating suffering and contributing to reconstruction. It is important that our activities are in line with Afghan priorities. Most of our assistance will be devoted to building up public institutions, education, democracy-building and human rights.

As regards development assistance to Iraq, Norway pledged NOK 537 million for the period 2003-2006 at the international donors’ conference in Madrid in October. Of this, NOK 297 million will have been used this year. The Norwegian contribution will be used primarily for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction, mainly through the multilateral International Reconstruction Fund for Iraq.

Our total assistance to these two countries for 2004 will be about NOK 300 million to Afghanistan and up to NOK 80 million to Iraq.

Mr President,

Norway currently has over 800 people participating in various operations abroad. In this way we are contributing to regional and global stability and security and helping to create a basis for political solutions to conflicts.

But our manpower, equipment and financial resources limit our ability to give a positive response to all requests for contributions. It is therefore important for us to assign priorities in connection with our involvement in the different operations and geographical areas.

The Government’s main principle is that we should primarily participate in UN-led and NATO-led operations. Further, we should be prepared to contribute to operations in connection with peace and reconciliation processes where we are involved, for example, in Sri Lanka. Another example is Sudan, where Norway is clearly expected to follow up its role in facilitating a peace agreement. If a peace agreement is achieved in Sudan, the Government will consider positively Norwegian participation in a UN-led force when the details concerning specific needs and financial aspects have been clarified.

We must continue to be prepared to contribute to the UN operations in Ethiopia and Eritrea, in Sierra Leone and in Liberia. In the Middle East we will seek to continue our leading role in the Temporary International Presence in Hebron.

It is important to note that our efforts in Sri Lanka, Sudan and in other parts of Africa where we are involved are of a different nature than those in for example Kosovo. In these countries we are not participating in military peace operations but in monitoring, control and police operations. These require different qualifications and resources.

As regards the Balkans we will maintain our military personnel in Kosovo. When NATO’s operation in Bosnia is taken over by the EU as planned in autumn 2004, we intend to make a civilian contribution.

Mr President,

The Defence Minister will explain in more detail how we intend to organise Norwegian participation in international military operations in 2004, and describe the need for resources and the security situation for the Norwegian forces. She will also describe in more detail the size of the military forces we intend to deploy in Afghanistan and Iraq.