The Armenian military announced on Tuesday the deployment of 81 additional troops in Afghanistan that almost tripled its presence in a NATO-led multinational force stationed there.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan said the two army platoons will serve in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. It said they are tasked with protecting the local airport used by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan.
Forty other Armenian soldiers have performed a similar mission in another northern Afghan city, Kunduz, since the beginning of last year. Another five Armenian military personnel were sent to the area to train an Afghan army unit early this year.
The latest troop deployment stems from amendments to an agreement with NATO that was signed by the Armenian government in late 2009. They commit Yerevan to having up to 130 servicemen in Afghanistan at least until the end of 2012. That number could temporarily reach 260 during regular troop rotations.
The Armenian parliament approved the amended agreement on May 11. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian told the National Assembly that the extra troops were requested by Germany, which is in charge of ISAF’s Northern Command headquartered in Mazar-e-Sharif. He said the German government will continue to finance the Armenian contingent.
A Defense Ministry official told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the 81 soldiers were flown to Afghanistan after completing a three-week training course in Germany. The troops deployed in Kunduz have undergone similar training.
Ohanian, who visited Afghanistan last July, said last month that 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 have larger ISAF contingents.