2019.11.21 16:01

Sending Lithuanian troops to Syria an option, but won't happen soon

Lithuania will keep the option of sending troops to an international operation in Syria, but does not plan to do it any time soon. This emerged on Thursday during debates on the parliament's resolution on giving a mandate for troops to take part in international operations over the next two years.

Lithuania sent military instructors to Iraq several years ago where they trained local forces to fight the so-called Islamic State. Politicians in Lithuania have lately been discussing possibilities to send special operations troops to fight Islamists in Syria.

But discussions stopped when Turkey invaded Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, and also because of Russia's involvement in the ceasefire negotiations.

“Taking into account Turkey's ongoing operation and Russia's [involvement] and the relative instability, there are no conditions for Lithuanian troops to take part in an international operation,” the minister said. “But [ISIS] has not gone anywhere. There are growing [ISIS] challenges in Iraq […] and, in general, there are unresolved problems in the Middle East.”

“This is why we are proposing to include a political signal in this mandate and also a specific outlook that if our participation was necessary not only in Iraq, we will do that,” Karoblis said.

Lithuanian troops would be sent to other operation in the Middle East, provided that the government and parliament agreed, he said.

Just as under the existing mandate, Lithuania would be able to send up to 40 troops to the US-led operation Inherent Resolve.

More troops

Under the proposed resolution, up to 303 Lithuanian troops could be sent to military missions over the next two years, compared to 255 troops under the existing mandate, which is in force from 2017 until the end of this year.

The bill also says that Lithuania could send up to five troops to the Strait of Hormuz where an international operation protects shipping to Persian Gulf countries amid tensions between Iran and the United States.

The bill would also allow to send more troops to Afghanistan and Africa, including Mali and the Central African Republic.

“As you know, Lithuania is mainly a receiver of security guarantees, but we should also contribute to the functions of ensuring peace and regional stability with our allies,” Karoblis said.