Latvian Special Forces to Join Lithuanians in Afghanistan

By The Baltic Course (November 11, 2011)

Later this year, the Lithuanian Special Operations Task Group Aitvaras will be joined by a Latvian Special Operations Forces contingent in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in the south of Afghanistan upon completion of premission training, the National Defence Ministry said BC.

This will be the first time when the Lithuanian Special Operations Task Group Aitvaras incorporates contingent of another country.

The core of the joint unit is formed by the Lithuanian SOF personnel and will be given under command of a Lithuanian Special Operations Force officer.

“Lithuanian troops have been part of the NATO-led ISAF mission in the south of Afghanistan for four years now. Members of the Task Group Aitvaras have been recognised for their professionalism by the allies and as well as by the ISAF leadership. From now on the Latvian Special Forces contingent will join us. We have been cooperating with our neighbour Latvia in the field of defence since 1991 by participating in joint exercises, military projects. The outcomes of our interoperability and long year friendship will be now put on test in combat circumstances, “says the Lithuanian Armed Forces Commander Lt Gen Pocius.

“Special Operations Forces is one of the most complex military capabilities. I am pleased that we develop this capability together with our neighbours Lithuanians which confirms our professionalism, ability and willingness to cooperate by even more integrating Armed Forces from the Baltic States,” emphasizes Latvian National Armed Forces Commander, Maj Gen Graube.

The decision to deploy a joint Lithuanian-Latvian Special Operations Forces unit as part of the Lithuanian Aitvaras to Afghanistan was made this August under a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Lithuanian Chief of Defence Lt Gen Arvydas Pocius and Latvian National Armed Forces Commander Maj Gen Raimonds Graube.

“The Memorandum of Understanding is an example of concrete and essential cooperation between the Baltic States as well as a significant contribution to strengthening and developing of common defence capabilities of the Baltic States and NATO,” points out the Lithuanian Chief of Defence Gen Pocius. According to him, the ongoing bilateral cooperation is the most evident proof of confidence between the military of the both countries.

The Memorandum of Understanding which was signed in August earlier this year between the Lithuanian and Latvian Defence Ministries sets out the arrangements, general responsibilities, principles and procedures of the participation of the Latvian SOF contingent in ISAF as part of the Lithuanian SOF Task group Aitvaras.

This example of cooperation between the Lithuanian and Latvian SOF also serves to endorse agreements adopted by the Baltic defence ministers’ meetings on seeking closer cooperation in defence sector and acting together thus ensuring visibility of joint activity and benefit of joint projects in solving security challenges and issues at global and regional level.

Personnel of the Lithuanian Special Operations Task Group Aitvaras have been a part of NATO ISAF operation in the south of Afghanistan since 2007. While on the mission the Task Group Aitvaras render military assistance to the Afghanistan military force, organise and conduct seminars and military training to the Afghanistan national police, and carry out other tasks.