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'Borgen' and Denmark's Involvement in the War in Afghanistan

Like most political issues addressed on "Borgen," the show's depiction of the country's involvement in the War in Afghanistan is true to life. The season two premiere found Birgitte visiting Denmark's troops stationed in Afghanistan. Even though she wanted to remove the troops from day one of her prime ministry, she ultimately convinces parliament to vote against the withdrawal and in favor of devoting more money to military spending. This week's episode, "Plant a Tree," showed one of the repercussions of her actions -- it influenced the Green Party's resignation from the coalition government.

"89,000 Children" aired in Denmark in late September 2011 and was most likely shot the year before during parliamentary talks of military withdrawal. Ironically, the episode aired on KCET a few days after the final Danish combat troops left Camp Price -- the military base that Birgitte visited on the show -- in Helmand province late June, ending Denmark's 12-year involvement in the war. The withdraw was initially planned for the end of 2014.

Here's what you need to know about the country's involvement in the war:

  • The war left 43 Danish soldiers dead -- more soldiers per capita from the country's 5.5 million population than any other European army -- and an additional 211 injured. In "Borgen," an unprecedented five soldiers are killed in one day when their encampment comes under Taliban attack on the day of Birgitte's visit.
  • Until last month, there were 720 soldiers -- almost five percent of Denmark's entire military (a bigger share than most counties) -- serving in Afghanistan.
  • Although the final troops have now left Afghanistan, almost 300 Danish soldiers will remain in the country until late 2014 to train the Afghan police force. They will participate in combat if necessary, but will primarily focus on coordinating the withdrawal of the remaining Western forces. On the show, the sergeant of the troop Birgitte visits tells her it's not time for withdrawal as the Danes have to stay long enough (five to six more years) to appropriately train the Afghan army and police.
  • The 12-year effort cost the country $2.3 billion.
  • The government maintained public support for the mission by describing it as a humanitarian effort, rather than strictly protection against terrorism. On the show, a solider writes a letter to his dad in the event of his death, saying that 89,000 Afghan children have survived thanks to the foreign military presence in their country.
  • Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Denmark has supported Afghan education and democratization efforts. During a visit to Afghanistan in November 2012, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach pledged $100 million in aid over the next five years. The soldier's note also discussed the military's involvement in building new schools and hospitals.
  • The extent of the military's involvement changed in 2006 from relatively safe non-combat operations in the center of the country to combat operations in the violent southern Helmand province.
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