Armenia will continue contributing troops to the NATO-led multinational force in Afghanistan in the years ahead, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian reportedly said during a visit to the country this week.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Friday that Ohanian met Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and NATO military commanders on the ground and inspected about 130 Armenian soldiers serving in northern Afghanistan during the three-day trip that ended on Wednesday.
A ministry statement quoted Mohammadi as thanking Armenia for participating in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and praising the role of ISAF’s Armenian contingents.
“In response, Seyran Ohanian reaffirmed the Republic of Armenia’s commitment to making a continuous contribution to coalition efforts to establish lasting security in Afghanistan,” said the statement.
With the United States planning end combat operations in Afghanistan next year, the NATO-led international military force there is due to be withdrawn by the end of 2014. A new and different NATO mission is expected to advise, train and assist the Afghan army after that. It was not clear if Ohanian’s remark meant Yerevan plans to participate in that mission.
According to the statement, Ohanian heard words of praise for the Armenian troops also during his separate meetings with ISAF’s British deputy commander, General Nick Carter, and General Erich Pfeffer, the commander of ISAF’s German-led Regional Command North headquartered in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Ohanian, himself a retired army general, went on to visit 60 Armenian soldiers deployed at Camp Mike Spann, an ISAF base near Mazar-e-Sharif. The soldiers are tasked with ensuring its security.
A similar number of Armenian servicemen guard a military airport near Kunduz, another major city in northern Afghanistan. Five Armenian military instructors training Afghan government forces also serve there. Ohanian inspected the Kunduz contingent as well.
The Defense Ministry statement quoted Ohanian as telling the contract soldiers that they are playing “a unique role in the fulfillment of Armenia’s commitments to making an adequate contribution to international security.”