Mission Afghanistan: Armenia eyes limited deployment in NATO-led peacekeeping operation

Forty Armenian troops will be deployed to Afghanistan in February 2010 for service as part of a German peacekeeping brigade, commander of the Armenian peacekeeping brigade Artur Simonyan told reporters Thursday.

Before the start of the mission, a group of Armenian military experts will pay a visit to Afghanistan in January to inspect the conditions for the Armenian deployment on the ground. The Armenian contingent consisting of 40 infantry will take necessary training in Germany before leaving for a six-month mission in one of the world’s most violent spots where NATO has waged a US-led campaign since 2002.

“The total strength of the Armenian peacekeeping brigade is 400, and we have already so many applications from our peacekeepers who volunteer to go to Afghanistan that we have to stop accepting applications. The main condition is that a volunteer for the Afghan mission should have the experience of missions in Kosovo and Iraq,” said Colonel Simonyan.

(Service as part of the peacekeeping contingent during missions abroad is well paid. Servicemen keep their usual salary that their families at home may choose to collect in their absence, while for the mission trip itself they are paid about $1,000 a month.)

The Armenian peacekeeping brigade was set up in May 2007, however Armenian servicemen also took part in the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo within a Greek battalion (from February 12, 2004), and in Iraq as part of a Polish division from January 25, 2005 until late last year. No Armenian soldier has died during the deployments, however Senior Lieutenant Georgi Nalbandyan was seriously wounded in Iraq in 2006. After rehabilitation he continued to serve within the Armenian Defense Ministry system. 

A Pentagon delegation led by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander visited the Yerevan-based regiment of peacekeepers on Thursday. She praised the level of the Armenian peacekeeping missions in both Kosovo and Iraq.