Lithuanian Special Operations Squadron Aitvaras is finishing its mission in Afghanistan after 13 years. However, a dozen of Lithuanian troops are set to stay in the country for at least the end of this year.
© I.Budzeikaitės nuotr.

Lithuanian special operations troops are scheduled to finish their participation in NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan on July 1.

"The special operations forces matured, grew stronger and demonstrated their professionalism and ability not only to fulfill tasks but also share their experience with Afghans. Today we mark the end of the Resolute Support mission, which last one year, and the handover of that responsibility for security to Afghanistan's special police forces. It marks maturity of our army and our special operations forces," Lithuanian National Defense Minister Juozas Olekas told journalists in Afghanistan on Sunday.

The minister added, however, that a small number of Lithuanian troops would remain in Herat and Kabul as the Seimas of Lithuania had approved their presence in the country in 2015-2016.

NATO Brigadier General Michele Risi confirmed it to BNS that the presence of Lithuanian army engineers, logistics and other specialists in Herat until the end of this year was "very important."

"Italy has decided to extend our presence here to ensure the train and advice function for the Afghan forces until the end of this year or even until the beginning of the next year. (…) From the tactical and strategic point of view, it's very important that the Lithuanian army contingent stays until the end of our mandate here in Afghanistan, making a significant contribution," Risi told journalists at the NATO army base in Herat.

One of the most important goals in Afghanistan is to ensure not only military but also other type of assistance, the Italian general said. "It’s important to strengthen the economy, the legal system and improve literacy so that people are able to make a contribution to this country, especially this region," he said.

Meanwhile, Olekas said Afghanistan's forces were ready to counter "security risks" by carrying out tactical operations on their own and holding negotiations with the Taliban on stability and peace. The minister noted that although there's been an increase in Taliban and rebel attacks in Afghanistan recently, the local forces have been successful in dealing with them.

"There have been incidents but they are smaller compared to previous ones, especially military incidents. There have been attacks against civilians, suicide attacks and organized bombings. But Afghanistan has in fact made major progress. With no doubt, international forces could also increase their assistance. But eventually time comes when Afghanistan needs to assume responsibility for security in the country," Olekas said.

The Lithuanian defense minister met with US General John F. Campbell, commander of NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul on Saturday. According to Olekas, the meeting focused on the organizational plans related international assistance and what type of assistance would be expected from Lithuania.

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