The parliament overwhelmingly ratified a relevant agreement, signed by Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and top NATO officials last month, after a one-day debate that attracted surprisingly little interests from many lawmakers.
The agreement commits Yerevan to contributing between 35 and 80 soldiers to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which has been fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Opening the debate on Monday, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian confirmed that the 40-strong detachment is due to be deployed in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz in February and to serve there under German command. He said it will comprise an army platoon, three staff officers and one military medic.
“The main mission of the contingent would be to protect the runway and other facilities of an airport in the city of Kunduz,” Ohanian told lawmakers. Other military officials said last week that the Armenian unit will fly to Afghanistan after a three-week training course in Germany.
“I think that this mission will contribute to the accomplishment of our national objectives,” Ohanian told journalists. “We will gain a stake in the formation of an international security system.” He also argued that neighboring Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey already have troops on the ground.
The dispatch of troops was backed by a parliamentary majority on grounds that it would ostensibly give Armenia a chance to burnish its reputation abroad which he believes was badly damaged by last year’s disputed presidential election.