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2013.04.18 11:15

Defence Minister discussed transfer of the Lithuanian peacekeepers’ compound to Afghani government

DELFI|The Lithuania Tribune2013.04.18 11:15

As the Minister of National Defence of Lithuania Juozas Olekas was finishing his visit in Afghanistan, he held meetings with Deputy Commander ISAF Lieutenant General Nick Carter, NATO Deputy Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Andrew Steinfeld and First Deputy Minister of National Defence Dr. Enayatullah Nazari. 

As the Minister of National Defence of Lithuania Juozas Olekas was finishing his visit in Afghanistan, he held meetings with Deputy Commander ISAF Lieutenant General Nick Carter, NATO Deputy Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Andrew Steinfeld and First Deputy Minister of National Defence Dr. Enayatullah Nazari.

General Carter updated the Lithuanian Minister on the process of the transition of the security lead onto local security forces in Afghanistan. According to the General, Afghanistan has made a particularly significant advance in many areas over the latter years, which required further efforts in strengthening the state. For the moment the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are prepared to take over the majority of ISAF tasks. The principal shortfall still observed are the institutional capabilities, therefore the General said he expected that after 2014 NATO member states would continue contributing to the mentoring of the ANSF.

The Lithuanian Minister briefed the ISAF leadership on Lithuania’s plans for withdrawing troops from the province of Ghor and for handing over the responsibility for security in the province to the Government of Afghanistan. “Lithuania will begin reducing the scope of the PRT activity as soon as within several months focussing mainly on the issues of pulling out troops and handing over the responsibility for security to local security capabilities,” the Minister said at the meeting.

Minister Olekas also presented the plans of contributing to the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan after 2014. According to the mandate approved by the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania regarding the participation of the Lithuanian Armed Forces’ military personnel in multinational operations, the mission in the south of Afghanistan will be continued by the Lithuanian Special Operations Forces personnel and the Air Mentoring Team which is providing training for Afghan helicopter pilots. The Minister also maintained that Lithuania was interested to cooperate with the Nordic and Baltic partners in the north of Afghanistan.

NATO Deputy Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Andrew Steinfeld accentuated the importance of the presidential elections due to take place next April. He emphasised that Afghanistan had to be ready to do both – to ensure the electoral procedures in technical terms and to transfer authority in political terms. When addressing the contribution of Lithuania’s military Afghanistan, he once again stressed their professionalism and expressed a hope that Lithuania would continue its participation in the NATO mission after 2014.

The Lithuanian Defence Minister’s delegation concluded the visit by a meeting with First Deputy Minister of National Defence Dr. Enayatullah Nazari at the Ministry of Defence of Afghanistan. The meeting defence officials discussed the mainstream issue of the year: the closure of the Lithuanian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghor and the transfer of the responsibility for security to the Government of Afghanistan. Minister Olekas stated that proper preparations for the handover of the compound were necessary which required close cooperation between Lithuanian military and representatives of Afghan institutions of authority.

In his turn, the First Deputy Minister of National Defence expressed gratitude to Lithuania for training the Afghan National Security Forces and promised to commission the capabilities needed for the handover. According to the Afghan official, a team of experts of the 207th Corps, Afghan National Army, will soon arrive in Chaghcharan to coordinate the procedures and measures of the handover with the Lithuanian peacekeepers. He also asked the Lithuanian Minister to deliver his condolences and support to the family of Sergeant Arūnas Jarmalavičius who was killed in the mission in Afghanistan in 2008 as well as to other troops injured in the incidents during the mission and to their families. He also promised to ensure that all the circumstances of the recent incidents in Ghor would be cleared up.

Dr. E. Nazari also thanked Lithuania for the assistance in the education, health care, and other sectors and asserted that Lithuania’s support and the experience shared were highly appreciated.

The Minister’s delegation during the visit included Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Defence of the Seimas Artūras Paulauskas and member of the Committee Darius Petrošius, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Kęstutis Masiulis, representatives of the Committee on Budget and Finance Andrius Palionis, representatives of the leadership of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Ministry of National Defence, and ‘G&G Sindikatas’, a popular band in Lithuania, who were invited to perform for the Lithuanian military. 

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