Afghanistan

Sweden increases support to Afghanistan

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The Government will make three important decisions today which in various ways will strengthen and improve Sweden's support to Afghanistan. The decisions concern both our military contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the design of a new strategy for our development assistance to Afghanistan.

Sweden is strengthening its military presence in Afghanistan through transport aircraft, ambulance helicopters and more training and coordination groups. The Swedish armed force in ISAF is expected to number about 500 people in 2009, compared with the current maximum of 390. The major part of the Swedish contribution will be linked, just as before, to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, which Sweden commands.

"Sweden's participation in ISAF is a long-term commitment. The Government's aim is that Sweden will continue to command the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. A particularly important part concerns strengthening our efforts to train and support the Afghan army, so that in the long term it will be able to deal with the threat from groups that are hostile to the government," says Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt.

Without security the prospects of development are made more difficult and without better living conditions long-term security is threatened. The military, civilian and reconstruction efforts being made in Afghanistan must therefore be seen as complementary and concurrent parts of Sweden's total support for security and development in Afghanistan.

Carl Bildt and Gunilla Carlsson have made the following joint statement: "Stability and security are fundamental conditions for fighting poverty and implementing development assistance initiatives aimed at bringing about sustainable long-term political, economic and social development that will protect the Afghan population."

The Government will also decide today to commission Sida to draw up a strategy proposal for development cooperation with Afghanistan for the period from 1 July 2009 to 31 December 2013. According to the Government's instructions, Sida is to plan for a substantial increase in Swedish development cooperation in Afghanistan from about SEK 300 million at present to about SEK 500 million in two to three years. Swedish initiatives should focus clearly on democracy and state building, human rights and women's rights, not least the right to education.

Moreover, work on the strategy should take as its starting point that about 20-25 per cent of Swedish development cooperation must target the four northern provinces for which Sweden has special responsibility through its leadership of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif. The Government is also instructing Sida to successively during 2009 increase the number of development advisers stationed at the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, to a total of four.

To realise this higher level of ambition and to ensure that the measures taken are adapted to local conditions in northern Afghanistan, an increase in the number of Swedish development advisers in the area is natural and necessary. This reinforcement will help the Provincial Reconstruction Team to reach out more effectively in the provinces it cooperates with.

"By securing access to civilian skills in the Provincial Reconstruction Team conditions are created for achieving synergy effects between different Swedish initiatives in these areas,2 say Carl Bildt and Gunilla Carlsson in a joint statement.

Contact:

Irena Busic
Press Secretary to Carl Bildt
+46 8 405 54 73
+46 70 271 02 55

Peter Larsson
Press Secretary to Gunilla Carlsson
+46 8 405 59 39
+46 70 283 95 97