Norway says it will operate Kabul medical facility after troop withdrawal if security of personnel is assured

June 16, 2021
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg are pictured at the NATO summit in Brussels on June 14.
Norway has said it will continue to operate the medical facility used by diplomats and aid personnel in Kabul for the rest of this year, provided its security can be assured after foreign forces complete their withdraw from Afghanistan.

“Right now, the situation in Afghanistan is fragile,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at a NATO summit Monday. “Norway has agreed to extend operation of the field hospital during a transitional period, until a civilian hospital has been established.” She said the offer would not extend beyond the first quarter of 2022.

The withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan has led to concerns about whether remaining diplomats and aid personnel will be able to continue to operate there amid ongoing security concerns and the lack of a political agreement between warring Taliban and government forces.

The Biden administration and other NATO governments have pledged to continue their massive humanitarian and governmental assistance programs, and to maintain a diplomatic presence, in the absence of protection from thousands of NATO troops.

Some NATO governments have questioned whether the United States, in its eagerness to complete its troop withdrawal by President Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline, has made sufficient plans to protect remaining civilians.

A senior administration official said that the focus during the Monday summit meeting was “on how we work together as an alliance to continue to provide support to the Afghan National Security Forces, the Afghan government and the Afghan people.”

“There is a considerable amount of practical work being done on that and strategic alignment on the desire to keep embassy presences, to maintain the necessary security to do that,” said the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity about the closed-door meetings.

Among the key questions discussed was how the Kabul international airport and the medical facility could safely remain operational. Turkey has offered to leave troops in Afghanistan to protect and operate the airport, although the Taliban on Saturday said that it expected all foreign troops to withdraw and that it would treat any remaining as “occupiers.”

Speaking to the Norwegian media in Brussels, Solberg said that “we have first and foremost said that we want to contribute with help and support on the humanitarian and development side. But we have also agreed — after we were asked about it — to extend the sanitary contribution for a transitional period.”

A statement from the prime minister’s office in Oslo said that other conditions for it to operate the medical facility include an invitation from the Afghan government, and “that other countries maintain their staffing levels at the hospital or that others participate in carrying out various functions at the hospital.”

“The field hospital is a key part of our diplomatic and civilian presence in Kabul,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said, according to the statement. “It is vital for ensuring that Norway and the rest of the international community can continue to provide humanitarian help and development aid, and support the peace process in Afghanistan.”

Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for The Post. In more than three decades at the paper, she has served as bureau chief in Latin America and in London and as correspondent covering the White House, U.S. foreign policy and the intelligence community.

Norway says it will operate Kabul medical facility after troop withdrawal if security of personnel is assured