Norway has a responsibility as a UN and NATO member , but also to the Afghan people: “(…) we have a task to do by standing by the Afghan people” (Støre 2008). The Minister of Defense says that “we will not leave Afghanistan until the Afghan people feel confident that peace will last” (Strøm-Erichsen 2008a).
Over the decade, unrest in Afghanistan is increasing, and security in the Norwegian-clad province of Faryab is deteriorating. ISAF and Norwegian soldiers are involved in “war-like actions” (Stoltenberg 2007), and unlike in 2005 it became clear that ISAF is a party to a conflict: “The Norwegian forces are fighting on the same side as the legally elected government, against the Taliban and other rebel groups ”(Strøm-Erichsen 2009). The Minister of Defense expressed a personal conviction when she said that “our involvement in Afghanistan is important and correct. The hope in the eyes of little schoolgirls is basically enough answers ”(Strøm-Erichsen 2009a).
When the goal of the commitment is to allow “the Afghan people to experience long-term and positive development” (Strøm-Erichsen 2005), it became important to be able to refer to concrete results: “Tens of thousands of children today receive education thanks to Norwegian support” (Utenriksdep 2007). Such clarification suggests that Afghanistan’s development will deteriorate if we do not contribute: “Under the Taliban, no girls went to school. More than 6 million children now go to school, and more than 2 million of them are girls ”(Stoltenberg 2007).
According to CACHEDHEALTH.COM, the arguments are based on emotions such as hope, empathy, and the willingness to help. The concept of development sounds good in the western world and is linked to societal changes that benefit most people, often economic growth and social and material improvements. Referring to such changes can be interpreted as a positive development: tens of thousands more receiving education, 82 more schools, lower infant mortality, etc. If development means success, such figures can be used as examples of positive development and is «visible progress» (Strøm-Erichsen 2008). Referring to “visible progress” is important for gaining support at home in Norway.
6: 2010–2013: «assignments completed!»
In 2010, an exit date is set , and the argument shifts focus again: From why it is right to be in Afghanistan to why it is right to leave. It is now argued that the Afghans themselves must take responsibility for their own security . The goal of preventing the country from becoming a haven for international terrorism has been reached. We have taken “our share of responsibility” (Faremo 2010a). The argument has changed from help and assistance to self-help.
The goal of achieving “a minimum standard in terms of security, democracy and development” (Strøm-Erichsen 2008) was replaced by “contributing to the Afghans themselves being able to be masters in their own house” (Faremo 2010). It is a shift away from the development goal back to the original goal: to fight international terrorism , and to prevent Afghanistan from remaining a refuge for this: “that mission has been carried out” (Strøm-Erichsen 2012).
For the first time, a dialogue with the Taliban is being called for in 2010: «A dialogue with the Taliban is necessary» (Eide 2011: 275) and to find «a political solution that also includes the Taliban» (Støre 2010). The argument has clearly changed compared to previous presentations. There the opponent was described as evil and the fight against it as a liberation struggle. After the Cold War, the importance of peaceful conflict resolution, negotiation and dialogue has characterized Norwegian foreign policy (including in Sri Lanka and the Middle East). Bondevik put it this way: «… the work for peace (has) been one of the foundations on which Norway has built for centuries. Today, that is perhaps our foremost characteristic internationally ”(Bondevik 2003). And it is perhaps precisely because of such an identification as a nation of peace that the argument resonates with the Norwegian public.
7: A clear UN mandate – with room for interpretation
From 2001 to 2013, the authorities’ arguments for involvement in Afghanistan have been based on a “clear UN mandate “. The UN mandate defined the situation in Afghanistan as “a threat to international peace and security”. It has made it possible to fulfill the mandate with various goals : the right to use military force for counter-terrorism, self-defense, and alliance solidarity (NATO membership), protection of values and form of society, prevention and deterrence of terrorist attacks, offensive national defense, development aid, nation – and democracy building, humanitarian aid and self-help.
The form of the argumentation of the Norwegian government has also changed to adapt the content. Appeals to fear and self-survival were prominent as long as the struggle was an existential struggle. Then came appeals to patriotism and self-esteem as a people of peace when the struggle was a struggle for peace. Empathy and the willingness to help were appeals that followed the argument that the commitment was primarily a development project. When the time and Afghanistan were ripe, the responsibility was to be returned, and the mission was presented as carried out. The country was no longer a breeding ground for international terrorism, and our job was done. All with “a clear UN mandate” in the back.