Soldier’s death prompts Afghanistan doubts

Politicians and military officials voiced their concerns about Finland’s role in Afghanistan this week as the body of a soldier killed in a car bomb attack arrived back on home soil. The coffin of First Lieutenant Jukka Kansonen was met with military honours at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport on Thursday following the deadly bombing two days earlier.

The attack has prompted chairman of the Parliamentary Defence Committee, Juha Korkeaoja, to call for an end to Finns patrolling in war zones. “The Finns should shift their focus to training soldiers, as we are good at it,” he said.

In addition to crisis management and provincial reconstruction projects under ISAF, Finns are also taking part in a separate EUROL operation to help Afghanistan develop a legal system and train its police. While ISAF is planning to give more responsibility to the Afghan army, patrols will not completely be abandoned.

Training co-ordinator Antii Haikio said there are concerns for the 40 Finns taking part in the new campaign. “The operation is seriously unfinished. The weakening of the security situation also applies to the Finns in EUPOL,” he said.

He added that Finnish EUROL troops could become more vulnerable to attacks as responsibility shifts to local officials. “This could happen, which is why the issue of the transfer is very problematic, and needs to be considered carefully,” Haikio concluded in a Helsingin Sanomat report.

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