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Assange Case: Sweden's Secret War in Afghanistan

They're trying to be taken on as a NATO/US military power.

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STOCKHOLM/LONDON (Rixstep) — Swedes have understandably had many things to be proud of - their easy-going lifestyle, their beautiful countryside, their midnight sun, their beautiful fair-haired people, their Nobel Prize. But most of all they've been proud of keeping the peace.

Swedes would happily tell you how chuffed they are that their country's been able to avoid war for such a long time.

But something happened at the turn of the New Millennium, something connected to 9/11, to Carl Bildt, to Fredrik Reinfeldt and his conservative party, to the military in the country. Not many people outside or in Sweden reflect today that this peace-loving nation has actually been at war for over ten years.

There is no public accountability for this sea change in Swedish politics. Successive Swedish governments have kept a lid on the details and even hidden budget costs known to be in the billions.

Yet the Swedish military will tell you openly what it's all about: they're vying for a position as a military ally of NATO and the US for coming conflicts.

A number of prominent Swedish citizens have written an open letter of protest against this behaviour and demanded an open public inquiry.

Scrutinise Sweden's military presence in Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan is almost eleven years old and Sweden's been a part of it for more than ten years, and this after proudly keeping the peace before that for almost two hundred.

The explanations from the Swedish government have varied from supporting women's rights to fighting terrorism to creating democracy to whatever. But at the National Swedish Defence College they've stated rather sharply that Sweden's war effort is supposed to one day qualify the nation as a military partner of NATO and the US for future international operations. The secrecy surrounding the war has meant that neither members of parliament nor the citizenry have been told exactly what their soldiers are doing in Afghanistan or why they're there. As an example: all incident reports involving Swedish soldiers are classified.

It is not clear how the decisions that pushed Sweden into the war were made. Already 24 October 2001 - three months before the parliament first voted on sending troops to Afghanistan - the cabinet secretary at the department of defence, in response to inquiries from the US, made two units of specialists from the Swedish Defence Research Agency available to the 'coalition against terrorism' of the US. Evidently this concerned preparations for a significant foreign involvement in Afghanistan.

The results of the discussions between Sweden and the US are not known. All documentation is classified. The discussions between the British minister for defence Geoffry Hoon and Sweden's minister for defence Björn von Sydow, which led to Sweden's agreement to participate in the war, have not been made available.

The demand for a public inquiry has therefore grown only stronger. Thage G Peterson was out early, demanding a 'white book' on the war. Peace researchers such as Jan Öberg and historians such as professor Lennart Palm have made the same demand for an independent public inquiry of the entire war and Sweden's role in it.

Now liberal politician Allan Widman joins them. He's been one of his party's most enthusiastic supporters of an active Swedish participation in Afghanistan. But during Easter week he went public with a demand that Swedish troops be brought home as soon as possible. In an interview with Afghanistan.nu from Almedalen this year, he explains that the reason is simply that there are so many countries - Norway, Holland, Canada to name a few - which have withdrawn their troops, and that it is pointless for Swedish troops to stay behind. Widman also sees it as important that a public inquiry be allowed to scrutinise the entire war.

The Swedish National Audit Office carried out a review of the war in 2011 and noted that there are no Swedish quantifiable objectives for participation, and that Sweden's role could not be evaluated. The governments were criticised by the Audit Office for not informing the parliament about the war and also that Swedish soldiers were completely subordinated to NATO command, and that NATO's objectives were used for their participation. The costs for this war have been kept secret year after year. The Audit Office directs crushing criticism at the fact that the real costs have not been made available. This is not about pocket change - the Swedish governments have neglected to account for billions.

It's vital that an independent public inquiry be created as soon as possible. The US are planning a new war after 2014 which will continue for at least ten years. This was agreed at the NATO meeting in Chicago 20-21 May. Hillary Clinton visited Sweden 3 June and evidently received assurances for continued Swedish support. Sweden's coming role in the new war after 2014 with 'support troops' was corroborated by recently appointed minister for defence Karin Enström the week after Hillary's visit. Sweden may thereby become a part of a never-ending military action in Afghanistan.

An inquiry into the war may not be conducted solely by people responsible for it. Citizens such as Thage G Peterson, Maj Britt Theorin, and Anders Ferm must also be brought in so that the results are trustworthy.

Maria-Pia Boëthius, author
Peter Hjukström, former secretary, Swedish Afghanistan Committee
Lars-Gunnar Liljestrand, chairman, Association for Solidarity with Afghanistan
Tomas Magnusson, president, International Peace Bureau
Ingela Mårtensson, board member, Operation 1325

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