Time to Withdraw
The parliamentary foreign affairs and defence committees debated the situation in Afghanistan in the wake of the recent withdrawal announcement by PM Borut Pahor. The committees concluded that the government is to prepare by October a timeline for a prompt but gradual withdrawal of Slovenian troops from Afghanistan.
At their joint session, which was attended by the prime minister, Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar and Defence Minister Ljubica Jelusic, the committees agreed that Slovenia must act responsibly, especially to its soldiers, and credibly towards the international community.
Initially, Zbogar presented the situation in Afghanistan and Jelusic spoke about the rules of engagement in international operations, while Pahor explained his reasons for announcing the withdrawal of troops.
According to Zbogar, the situation in the central Asian country is stable, although progress in the transition of power to the Afghanis is slower than expected and hoped for.
Pahor said in June that Slovenia would start consulting other allies about the withdrawal and that Slovenian troops would be pulled out from Afghanistan soon, presumably in October with the end of the current half-year rotation of the Slovenian Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT).
The prime minister has already discussed the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK Prime Minister David Cameron and has briefed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The lively discussion at the session today meanwhile touched on possible disagreements within the government regarding Slovenia's cooperation in Afghanistan, which Pahor and Jelusic denied.
Pahor also denied allegations that Slovenia lacked sovereignty in NATO, noting that the country proved its sovereignty by refusing military cooperation in the NATO operation in Libya.
The joint session was held based on a call to the government by the defence committee to present a thorough analysis of the situation in Afghanistan in early June, following a bomb attack in Herat (W Afghanistan) in which a Slovenian civilian expert was injured.
The first Slovenian troops were sent to Afghanistan for the NATO-led ISAF mission in March 2004. Currently, 89 soldiers are stationed in the country. In October 2010, Slovenia took over its own OMLT, planned for four half-year terms, with a revision envisaged after the first year.
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