YEREVA N (RFE/RL)–Armenia has made a decision to increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan helping the U.S.-led NATO forces cope with the Taliban insurgency in the war-torn Central-Asian country, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday.
The expected doubling of the 40-strong Armenian combat unit deployed near Kunduz, in northeastern Afghanistan, since early this year was reportedly discussed during the Friday meeting in Brussels between Deputy Secretary General of NATO Claudio Bizoniero and head of the Armenian mission to the alliance Samvel Mkrtchian.
The press service of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the meeting discussed the outcomes of the recent NATO summit in Lisbon, the implementation of its decisions and reached agreements, as well as prospects of the further deepening of NATO-Russia relations.
“The parties held a detailed discussion of ways of developing and substantializing different partnership formats. In connection with issues of the Afghanistan operations and the gradual handover of security functions to the country’s authorities, Claudio Bizoniero hailed the Armenian leadership’s decision to double the number of troops participating in the operation,” the ministry’s report said.
Mkrtchian also reportedly informed the senior NATO official about the completion of his mission in Brussels.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian issued a decree late last week appointing Armen Yedigarian to succeed Mkrtchian as chief of Armenia’s mission to NATO.
Armenia is one of several dozen NATO member or partner states making up the multinational contingent in Afghanistan, with its small combat unit deployed near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan operating under the NATO aegis, on a mission to protect a local military airport.
Speaking at a NATO summit session in Lisbon dealing with Afghanistan, on November 20, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, in particular, said that Armenia was ready to increase its participation in the International Security Assistance Force.
Armenia has also been involved in other Western-led peacekeeping operations abroad, notably in Kosovo and Iraq.
About 50 Armenian sappers, military doctors and other non-combat personnel were in Iraq from early 2005 to late 2008. As many as 70 Armenian peacekeepers continue their mission in Kosovo.