Armenia’s parliament on Wednesday formally approved government plans to almost triple the number of Armenian soldiers serving in Afghanistan and extend their mission by one year, until the end of 2012.
The National Assembly unanimously endorsed corresponding changes to an agreement with NATO that was signed by the Armenian government in late 2009.
The agreement paved the way for the deployment of 40 Armenian soldiers near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz last year. Five other Armenian military personnel were later sent there to train an Afghan army unit.
The amended agreement allows the Armenian military to raise the number of its troops serving as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan to 130. That number will temporarily reach 260 during regular troop rotations.
Speaking in the parliament on Tuesday, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said the additional troops were requested by the government of Germany, which is in charge of ISAF’s Northern Command headquartered in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. He said the German government will continue to finance the Armenian contingent, including the two army platoons to be sent to the area soon.
It is not yet clear where the Armenian reinforcements will be stationed and what their exact mission will be.
Ohanian, who visited Afghanistan last July, said the additional troop deployment in Afghanistan will boost Armenia’s ties with NATO and raise its international profile. He also argued that neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan currently have larger ISAF contingents.