Armenia Expects NATO Offers on Afghan Contingent Deployment
Armenia is likely to contribute to NATO and U.S. operations in Afghanistan by sending forces, an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman has confirmed, without specifying details.
Հրապարակված է՝ 24.07.2009
Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian told RFE/RL on Thursday details of the deployment are being currently discussed in Germany where an Armenian military official is taking part in a NATO planning conference.
Shahsuvarian said Armenia expects proposals already on Friday.
“We will discuss them and their details will be made public then,” the spokesman said, adding that earlier Armenia had offered its contribution with medical specialists and interpreters.
Associated Press on Wednesday quoted Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian as saying that Armenia will send forces to Afghanistan “by the end of the year” and that “some Armenians who fought in the Soviet Union’s unsuccessful 1980s war in Afghanistan want to return as part of the new force.” The minister, however, did not say how many servicemen would be deployed. Unnamed officials quoted by AP said Armenia would likely send munitions experts and communication officers.
Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) Director Richard Giragosian says the initiative signals Yerevan’s aspiration to preserve balance in its military and political relations with the United States and Russia. He says it is significant that the announcement was made after negotiations conducted by Commander of the National Guards of Kansas State, Major-General Tod Banting in the Armenian capital.
“There are two specific reasons. First is that Afghanistan is a new priority of Obama and the Americans. And in this way Armenia hopes to play an important role. In addition to the Americans wanting Armenia, Armenia also wants to play a greater role, a role in Afghanistan that also builds on the strength of experience of Armenian peacekeepers who’ve served in Iraq and Kosovo,” said Giragosian.
Caucasus Institute Director Aleksandr Iskandarian says by discussing the deployment of forces in Afghanistan Armenia is trying to live up to its declared complementarity in foreign policy, which means “developing relations with Russia without harming relations with the West and vice versa.”
“Of course, Armenia has failed to do either and the Russians and the Americans have always been dissatisfied. However, their dissatisfaction is not as big as to make them attempt to change the situation,” says Iskandarian.
Iskandarian also argues that Armenia’s other objective is to continue its military upgrading.
“The Soviet-era resource for upgrading the military has been completely used up. Continued military modernization requires other formats and there is a hope that Armenian troops operating within NATO military units can become good examples of this modernization,” suggests Iskandarian.
Giragosian also names another objective for Armenia – to prevent Azerbaijan from playing a more appreciable role in the Afghan campaign.
“The most important thing is in a broader sense. It’s because Azerbaijan now has more strategic importance for the operations in Afghanistan. And in this way Armenia can actually gain further strategic importance. Not only Azerbaijan but also Armenia will be seen as an important partner,” said Giragosian.
Armenia has already participated in Western-led peacekeeping operations abroad, notably in Kosovo and Iraq.
About 50 Armenian sappers, military doctors and other non-combat personnel were deployed in Iraq in early 2005. Yerevan pulled all its servicemen out of Iraq last autumn along with the withdrawal of a much larger Polish army contingent that commanded them