Armenian Defense Minister Visits Afghanistan

Ohanian Visits Armenian Troops In Afghanistan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Late on Monday, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian ended a three-day visit to Afghanistan during which he inspected Armenian troops stationed there and met with his Afghan counterpart and NATO’s top military commanders on the ground.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that Ohanian discussed the country’s “security environment” and “challenges” facing the war against the Taliban insurgency, with his interlocutors; among them General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and other foreign forces in Afghanistan.

A ministry statement said they also reviewed “prospects for further cooperation” between Armenia and the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan operating under the NATO aegis.

Armenia is one of 43 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members or partner states that make up the multinational contingent, having sent a 40-strong combat unit to the war-torn nation early this year. The unit was deployed near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz and is in charge of protecting a local military airport. The area is part of ISAF’s Northern Command led by the German General Hans Werner Fritz.

Ohanian visited the Armenian troops and inspected their observation posts, barracks and equipment at the start of his trip on Saturday. Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamian, the Armenian army’s chief chaplain accompanying the minister, consecrated a small chapel built by them inside their military compound.

According to the Defense Ministry statement, Petraeus and Fritz thanked Ohanian for the “excellent and exemplary service” of the Armenian soldiers. It said Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak likewise praised their contribution to the ISAF mission during talks with Ohanian in Kabul on Sunday. Wardak also briefed him on the overall security situation in Afghanistan, added the statement.

Ohanian flew to Afghanistan two days after the conclusion of an official visit to Germany. Armenia’s involvement in ISAF was reportedly high on the agenda of his talks with German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg.

On Thursday, the two ministers visited a German military training camp in Germersheim, southwestern Germany, where a second rotation of Armenian soldiers is preparing for deployment in Kunduz. The Armenian Defense Ministry said Ohanian underlined “the importance of Armenia’s participation in international peacekeeping operations.”

That participation stems, in large measure, from Armenia’s growing defense and security links with the West and in particular, its “individual partnership action plan,” or IPAP, with NATO launched in 2005.

A recently revised version of IPAP makes clear that Yerevan will continue to expand a special army unit that provides personnel for NATO-led military missions in conflict zones. The Armenian Peacekeeping Brigade should be fully interoperable with NATO and able to “deploy and sustain as a maximum effort one battalion,” says the cooperation framework.

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