Denmark has found that operating troops in Afghanistan is very expensive. In the last eight years, Denmark has had as many as 1,600 troops in southern Afghanistan, where they have seen heavy combat. Denmark is withdrawing its forces, and only 750 remain there. In the first four years, only commandos were sent. The Royal Danish Army is small, with only about 11,000 active duty troops. It is considered a modern, well-trained fighting force.
Last year, Denmark spent $415 million to support their force in Afghanistan. That's more than twice what was spent in the previous year. In 2007, those operations only cost Denmark $135 million. The additional funds were needed to buy essential weapons, equipment and spare parts. Denmark also increased the training given to troops headed for Afghanistan. In eight years of action, 31 Danish troops have been killed.
All NATO nations in Afghanistan have been running into serious problems keeping their combat troops supplied with needed equipment. Because of parts shortages, troops are often lacking operational night vision goggles, IED (roadside bomb) jammers, radios, vehicles and navigation equipment.
The problems have been building for several years. Previous cuts in defense spending led to low stockpiles of spare parts for many major weapons systems. As a result, the hard working troops are suffering a chronic shortage of spare parts.
NATO nations have been cutting back on defense spending since the end of the Cold War in 1991. At the time, this was hailed as the "peace dividend." But operations in Afghanistan have put more equipment into use, more often, and in very demanding (too hot, too cold and very dusty) conditions. This has used up spare parts stockpiles (which were not large to begin with), causing much equipment to be sidelined and often cannibalized for parts, to keep other items operational.
Most NATO nations cut their defense spending (as a percentage of GDP), by 30-40 percent after the Cold War ended. These nations also reorganized their forces, putting more emphasis on providing jobs for their citizens, and less on maintaining military capability. As a result, combat capability of most NATO nations has fallen by more than half since the end of the Cold War. Now that peacekeeping has become popular, many NATO nations are struggling with the need to spend more on the troops, before sending them off on these humanitarian missions.