HELSINKI — The Danish government is seeking to build cross-party support to send special forces troops to Syria and Iraq in support of US operations against ISIS. The government is also considering a proposal to deploy a new squadron of F-16s to either Iraq or Syria in the first half of 2016.

Initial contacts and communications between the government and the leaders of opposition parties suggest that the government backs a plan to put a special forces mission-ready unit totaling 30 to 50 special operations troops at the disposal of the international coalition.

While Denmark's liberal and conservative parties are generally supportive of the government's proposal, the Socialist People's Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti) is opposing any new measure that could see Danish troops engaged in ground-combat operations in either Syria or Iraq in the long term.

Any future deployment of Danish special ops troops would represent a significant up-scaling of Denmark's support to the US-led international coalition against ISIS.

Denmark contributed an F-16 squadron comprising seven aircraft and 90 military personnel to support the international coalition in October 2014.

Based in Kuwait, the squadron flew more than 547 recorded missions over northern Iraq. According to government figures, Danish F-16s dropped a total of 503 bombs and other ordnance on enemy targets before the unit was recalled to Denmark, and its home station at Skrydstrup Air Force Base in Jutland, in October 2015.

"It is our hope that the F-16 squadron can return and play its part in the fight against ISIL sometime in 2016," said Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen. The Danish F-16s, said Jensen, could be deployed to fighter ISIS in Iraq or Syria. 

It is expected that a new Danish F-16 squadron may be dispatched to the Middle East, and fully operational, by the end of the first half of 2016.

Capacity issues relating to the Danish defense forces’ (DDF) ability to train and equip units for international missions will also need to be closely examined against the backdrop of Denmark’s desire to become a more active player in the fight against ISIS.  

Capacity is becoming a more important issue. The Danish government has limited its response to a request from the United Nations (UN), which asked Denmark to send up to 250 combat troops and a 30 armored vehicle motorized unit to support the UN’s cease-fire policing mission in Mali, but Denmark offered only by offering a single special operations unit of up to 30 troops and a transport aircraft. 

The UN had hoped that the Danish contribution sought would form part of a new 550-strong battalion being assembled by the UN nited Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission. (MINUSMA). 

"We are receiving multiple requests for troops and equipment for international operations. These pose resource challenges for the Danish military, and our resources are not limitless," said Peter Juel Jensen, the Venstre Party's (Liberals) spokesman on defense. Venstre heads-up Denmark's minority government, which took office in June 2015.

Sporadic fighting continues in Mali despite a February 2015 cease-fire agreement reached between the revolutionary National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Bamako-based Mali government.


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