Armenia has reaffirmed its plans to keep a small military contingent in Afghanistan after the official completion of NATO-led combat operations there slated for the end of this year.
NATO plans to replace its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan by January 2015 with a new and smaller mission that will concentrate on advising, training and assisting the Afghan army. Armenia has participated in the ISAF with up to 130 soldiers since 2010.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan reported on Wednesday that a delegation of its senior representatives participated earlier this week in a meeting in Germany of defense officials from 19 NATO member and partner states that discussed preparations for the new mission dubbed Resolute Support. It said the delegation “reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to participating in Resolute Support.”
A ministry statement also said that the head of the delegation, Levon Ayvazian, and a top German Defense Ministry official signed a “technical agreement” stemming from the new NATO mission. It envisages the redeployment of some of the 120 Armenian soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to the capital Kabul.
Mazar-e-Sharif is home to the headquarters of the ISAF’s Regional Command North that has been headed by German generals. ISAF troops stationed in and around Kabul are currently commanded by a Turkish general. Turkey now has some 460 troops on the ground.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian inspected the Armenian troops in Mazar-e-Sharif and another northern city, Kunduz, when he last visited Afghanistan in late 2012. Ohanian told Afghan officials that Armenia remains committed to making a “continuous contribution to coalition efforts to establish lasting security in Afghanistan.”
The Armenian deployment in Afghanistan has highlighted growing cooperation between NATO and the South Caucasus state heavily reliant on a military alliance with Russia. Official Yerevan says it wants to further deepen security ties with the U.S.-led alliance despite planning to join a Russian-led alliance of former Soviet republics.
Armenia also contributes around 40 troops to a NATO-led mission maintaining peace and stability in Kosovo. Another 60 or so Armenian soldiers are expected to join the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon later this year.