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Norwegian Islamists v. Finnish Right-Wing Vigilantes

Soldiers of Odin in Finland
Soldiers of Odin in Finland

The Finnish vigilante group Soldiers of Odin has been successfully spreading its anti-migrant, anti-Islam across northern Europe over the past few months. But now, Islamists in neighboring Norway have begun mobilizing their own organization to counter the movement.

Soldiers of Odin was formed in Finland in November following an influx of Syrian refugees. Members of the right-wing citizen group, some of whom are self-described Neo-Nazis, characterize themselves as "patriots fighting for a white Finland." The group gained momentum after the New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne, Germany, where hundreds of women were sexually assaulted by migrant men. Odin now claims to have 600 members in more than 25 cells across Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Germany, Estonia and Hungary, with supporters also as far away as Britain and the United States.

The messaging of the various chapters has been inconsistent, to put it charitably — some outwardly hostile to Muslims and other migrants, while others claiming not to be driven by racism or religious bigotry. The Norwegian chapter of the group made its debut in southern Norway in mid-February. Spokesman Ronny Alte — former leader of the Norwegian Defense League and an activist in another anti-migrant group Pegida — told local newspaper Verdens Gang that they are not about "religion and skin color," but simply want "a safe city."

But on Wednesday, a group calling themselves "Soldiers of Allah," announced that "we Muslims have decided to create our own group." The vast majority of its members are also part of the group "Prophet's Ummah," whose spokesman Ubaydullah Hussain is currently being held on charges of recruiting for ISIS.

A "Soldiers of Allah" source tells Verdens Gang that the planned uniform will be a sweatshirt adorned with the black flag of ISIS.

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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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