Azerbaijan Doubles Troops in Afghanistan

BAKU (AFP)–Azerbaijan has doubled the number of its troops serving with NATO-led forces in Afghanistan to 90, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

"Based on parliament’s decision to increase Azerbaijan’s peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan, 45 servicemen have been sent to the country," adding to the 45 already there, Defense Ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu told AFP.

Azerbaijan’s parliament voted for the increase in October.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), comprising more than 51,000 troops from some 40 nations, is helping to fight a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan.

Azerbaijani soldiers have been deployed mainly in western Afghanistan, where they provide security for reconstruction efforts under Turkish command.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim country wedged between Russia and Iran, has contributed small numbers of forces to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo as President Ilham Aliyev seeks closer ties with the West. It withdrew a 151-strong contingent from Iraq last year.

Azerbaijan is a potential candidate for a new US supply lines to Afghanistan.

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