Swedish officer sparks Facebook debate over ISIS getting govt assistance over returning veterans

Reuters / Stringer
A Swedish officer on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan wants to see more government consideration for his fellow veterans upon his return home than what is being planned for former Islamic State fighters.

Fredrik Brandberg's comments, which first appeared Sunday on his Facebook page, took off like wildfire on Swedish social media.

Brandberg, an officer major at Resolute Support (RS) in Kabul, knows there is no regular job waiting for him when he returns to his native country after serving his third term in Afghanistan.

"In a few months, I'm back in Sweden after being deployed in Afghanistan, against Taliban and others who have really jeopardizing development in this very sore country," he said.

"There is no permanent job waiting for me when I come home."

In a Facebook post entitled, "Utmaningen" or, "The Challenge," Brandberg challenges the Social Democrats in power – particularly Mona Sahlin, Sweden's official coordinator against violent extremism - who have announced plans to help former Islamic State rebels reintegrate into Swedish society.

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"I read that Mona Sahlin, together with other Swedish political leaders, are anxious to take care of Swedish IS warriors coming home from being involved in Syria, with specially designed programs for work and other issues that would make them function well in our society."

In November, Sahlin was quoted as saying she wanted to “impose tax aid” for immigrants who fought in IS in an effort to counter “religious radicalization in the suburbs of Stockholm,” the FriaTider reported.

The newspaper went on to speculate that such an approach seems to run counter to how many Swedes would handle the situation, with some opting instead for “life imprisonment and deportation” of former Islamic State fighters.

Screenshot from facebook.com/fredrik.brandberg

Brandberg, who described the response to his remarks as “crazy,” provided some insight into what motivated him to post his Facebook comments.

"The idea of my post was obvious - why support Swedish IS-warriors, and not Swedish peacekeeper veterans," he told RT.

Regarding the economic situation in his native Sweden, Brandberg was not very optimistic.

"The financial situation in Sweden is not as it used to be, I'm sorry to say. Getting a regular job in Sweden is hard, even if you have a degree and military experience."

He also said that no Swedish politician has yet reached out to him over his views.

"No one official has made contact from the social democrats, but I have to say that there are more politicians in Sweden that consider IS-warriors as victims. I’m not sure anyone dares to question me, but this issue is actually more complicated than it appears in my post and I welcome a discussion to this."

As one of 20 Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the Resolute Support (RS), Brandberg believes that returning veterans deserve more consideration from the government.

"It would be wonderful if I was met with a comparable program after my homecoming, after which I could feel safe in having a regular job, with monthly income and a social stable situation in the society where I wouldn't need to wonder whether I'm wanted or not," he said on his Facebook page.

Readers took to Brandberg’s Facebook page to post their own comments, wishing him luck in his quest.

"Very sad for our NATO forces because I know the same situation you are in Fredrik is happening to other military forces. Shared your post with my FB friends. Lots of love & hugs to you and your family," one reader commented.

Another wrote: “Sahlin and many of our politicians have their loyalties and priorities dangerously misplaced, I and my family thank you for your service and if we can help we will."

The Swedish Armed Forces was quoted as saying Monday that what happens to soldiers upon their return from war was beyond their power.

"We take care of soldiers while they are there on the ground," an armed forces official said, as quoted by The Local. "Once they're back home, it's no longer our [responsibility]."

Sweden’s defense and foreign ministries were not immediately available for comment, The Local said.