HELSINKI — Latvia has joined the new Nordic Transition Support Unit (NTSU) initiative, which will render joint force contributions in support of Afghan security structures ahead of the withdrawal of Nordic and Baltic ISAF forces in 2014.
Due to commence operations in January 2013, the NTSU is to embrace a coordinated approach across a broad spectrum of areas, including the deployment of troops, ground and air equipment support, as well as the coordinated provision of training programs for Afghan Army units.
The NTSU will also assume responsibility to coordinate the withdrawal of Nordic/Baltic forces using shared transport assets by year-end 2014.
In effect, the NTSU will expand the realm of existing cooperation between Nordic and Baltic forces attached to ISAF. Present collaborative structures includes joint patrols, infrastructure-building operations and the sharing of helicopter and transport aircraft air-support assets at regional military bases at Camp Nidaros in Mazar-e-Sharif province.
Nordic military commanders continue to explore value-added opportunities to share costs while raising in-theater operational effectiveness through joint initiatives, said Norway’s defense chief, Gen. Harald Sunde.
“I am optimistic regarding the whole of Afghanistan. The country will certainly change in the future, but it will never fully revert to the old Taliban rule,” said Sunde.
The Taliban’s indicated willingness to enter into a ceasefire and accept a continued U.S. military presence in the country underlines the success of the ISAF’s mission, Sunde said.
Norway plans to maintain reduced forces in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif until the end of 2014, while Sweden, Denmark and Finland have adopted a similar, slow phase-out withdrawal strategy.
Finland began the gradual withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan on Sept. 11.
The first Finnish troops left Camp Marma, which is the headquarters for the Swedish-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e-Sharif. The Swedish contingent comprises around 600 officers and troops.
Finnish strength is set to be reduced by 50 to 145 soldiers by the end of 2012. Replacement troops will include more training specialists and instructors to work with Afghan Army units.