YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will send a small contingent of troops to Afghanistan in February to help the United States and its NATO allies fight the Taliban insurgency, according to the Armenian military.
News reports quoted Colonel Artur Simonian, the commander of a special peacekeeping brigade of Armenia’s Armed Forces, as saying late Thursday that the contingent will include approximately 40 troops. He said they will fly to Germany next month to undergo special training with German soldiers that will last for up to three weeks.
“They will leave for Afghanistan with the German contingent later on,” Simonian said, according to News.am. He confirmed that they will serve there under German command.
The impending Armenian deployment was announced last month by Robert Simmons, NATO’s special representative to the South Caucasus. Neither Simmons, nor Colonel Simonian specified the type of Armenia military personnel that will join the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan.
Earlier reports said they will mostly consist of munitions experts and communication officers. However, a military official in Yerevan said recently that Armenia plans to send a full combat unit whose main mission will be to defend a military airport near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.
Neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia already have more than 100 soldiers each on the ground. The Georgian government has pledged to deploy another 900 soldier there by next spring.
Celeste Wallander, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Policy, discussed the Armenian participation in the ISAF with President Serzh Sarkisian and other Armenian leaders during a visit to Yerevan on Thursday. She also visited the Yerevan headquarters of the peacekeeping brigade, which provides troops for Armenian military missions abroad.
“The United States values its partnership with the Republic of Armenia, which has made contributions to NATO and coalition efforts in Kosovo, Iraq, and soon in Afghanistan,” Wallander said, ending the one-day trip.