Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen inspected and praised Armenian troops serving in Afghanistan under German command during a visit to the war-torn country that ended on Tuesday.
Von der Leyen visited them on Monday at Camp Marmal, a German military base near the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif which which also serves as regional headquarters of the NATO-led multinational force in Afghanistan.
According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, she thanked the 56 Armenian soldiers currently deployed there for their service. “She pointed out that Armenia … is regarded as a reliable partner and she expects this partnership to be long-lasting,” the ministry said in a statement.
A photograph released by it showed the commander of the Armenian contingent presenting von der Leyen with an Armenian national flag and an English-language book about a medieval monastery in Armenia.
Armenian soldiers have served under German command and used German equipment ever since they were first deployed in Afghanistan in 2010. Many of them underwent short training courses in Germany before their deployments.
Armenia had 120 or soldiers on the ground before NATO replaced its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan with a new and smaller mission in December 2014. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reaffirmed last week Yerevan’s intention to maintain its military presence in Afghanistan “at its current strength level” at least until the end of 2016.
“We are ready to stay with [NATO’s] future Enduring Partnership mission when it takes over from the [current] Resolute Support mission,” Nalbandian said at a ministerial meeting in Brussels of the NATO member and partner states involved in Afghanistan.
The NATO mission appears to have also boosted Armenia’s broader military ties with Germany. The defense ministries of the two states pledged to step up bilateral cooperation last year when they approved a plan of joint activities for 2015.
President Serzh Sarkisian singled out Armenia’s “productive cooperation with Germany” when he addressed a NATO summit in Wales in August 2014. He called it “a great example of interaction between NATO’s member and partner states.”