YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will soon send a small contingent of troops to Afghanistan to help the United States and its NATO allies fight the Taliban insurgency, a senior NATO official said on Friday.
Robert Simmons, NATO’s special representative to the South Caucasus, made the announcement during a visit to Yerevan. He said the issue was on the agenda of his talks with Armenian leaders.
“Let me express our appreciation to Armenia for its strong contributions to Allied missions, first in Kosovo but now also in Afghanistan where they will send approximately 30 soldiers early next year,” Simmons told a news conference.
An Armenian Defense Ministry official essentially confirmed the information, saying that the Armenian government will soon ask parliament to approve the deployment. The official said Armenian soldiers will likely serve in the north of Afghanistan under German command.
Neither he, nor Simmons specified the type of Armenia military personnel that will join the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan. Earlier news reports said they will mostly consist of munitions experts and communication officers.
The Armenian military and NATO representatives have been discussing the deployment for the past two years. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said in July that it will take place “by the end of the year.” Ohanian discussed the matter with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and several of his Western counterparts on the sidelines of a NATO conference on Afghanistan held in Slovakia last month.
Despite having no troops on the ground yet, Armenia is already officially listed by NATO as one of the 43 member and partner states making up ISAF. The force currently includes over 70,000 soldiers, about half of them American. Neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan participate in the mission with 720 and 90 troops respectively.