(Reuters) – Norway will reinforce its military presence in Afghanistan in 2008 with two to three helicopters and by returning a 150-strong special forces unit to the Kabul area, Norwegian defence officials said on Tuesday.Norway now has about 500 soldiers in Afghanistan with the NATO-led international force sent there after U.S. and Afghan opposition forces toppled the Taliban in 2001. Norway will deploy up to 150 special forces soldiers in Kabul for 18 months from March 2008, the defence ministry said. A similar unit was repatriated to Norway at the end of September after six months service.
Norway will also provide two to three light helicopters and up to 70 accompanying personnel to reinforce the Norwegian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Maimana in northwestern Faryab province from April 2008, the ministry said.The Nordic NATO member will also boost to around 50 from 10 its staff officers engaged in liaison and training of Afghan military and police forces in 2008, the ministry said.
With the reinforcements, the Norwegian forces in Afghanistan will rise back above 700, but dip again once Norway withdraws a rapid reaction unit consisting of 235 soldiers from Mazar-i-Sharif in the autumn, the ministry said. But an additional 100-man infantry company will be sent to Maimana in the second half of 2008, bringing the number of Norwegians in the country back up above 600, it said.