Dec. 4, a deployment send-off ceremony for the next Latvian contingent was held. This will be the first contingent to take part in the NATO-led training operation “Resolute Support”. This event also marked the end of the alliance-led International Security Assistance Forces combat operation, in which Latvia took part since 2003. The farewell ceremony happened only some hours after the Saeima (the Latvian Parliament) approved the Latvian soldiers’ participation in the new military operation of the alliance.
The soldiers were greeted by the Minister of Defence Raimonds Vējonis and the Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube, as well as the commanders of the contingent’s soldiers units.
„The Armed Forces ensure security not only for the people of Latvia, but also for NATO member states and countries, where the NATO soldiers are deployed,” remarked the Minister of Defence in his speech. He emphasised that the aim for soldiers is to provide support for the Afghan National Security Forces so that they could reach the same level of preparedness as the NATO forces.
‘’I wish you to be united and strong during the operation. Support each other and – most importantly – be respectful toward each other and your Afghan colleagues. This is essential to be able to work as a team and to pass on knowledge to Afghans,’’ the minister said while handing the Latvian flag to the commander of the contingent — Major Arvis Zīle.
Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube emphasised that the soldiers will continue the work that was started several years ago. “I wish you the very best of luck, because the professional skills you already have,” he stressed and presented a loaf of traditional black bread to the soldiers.
Latvia will deploy a contingent of up to 30 soldiers to the operation “Resolute Support” in Afghanistan that will primarily be stationed in the Camp Marmal in Mazar-e Sharif in the Northern part of the country, while a small part of soldiers will be stationed in Kabul as advisors, and in different levels of officer and instructor positions.
The Latvian soldiers will provide support for the training of the Headquarters of the 209th corps of the Afghan National Army and the Engineering School, as well will serve as advisors in the Regional Operations Coordination Center established by the Alliance training forces. It will ensure the training of the Afghan National Security Forces and exchange of information in the Northern region which is led by Germany.
Latvia will also ensure the participation of the Military Police in the International Military Police Company, as well as a Close Air Support team in the Rapid Reaction Force Company.
In middle of 2013 the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) transferred the responsibility of maintaining security of the entire country to the Afghan National Security Forces, thereby NATO began concentrating on the training of Afghan forces.
The process began in 2011; the control over security has been gradually transferred to the Afghan forces. Latvian and Norwegian soldiers, who had been ensuring the safety of the Faryab province of Northern Afghanistan, ended their mission in Oct. 2012, shortly after the military base of Maymana had been transferred to the Afghan forces. After they had been re-deployed to the Mazar-e Sharif they continued the training of the Afghan forces as part of the Nordic Baltic Transition Support Unit up to May 12, 2014 and even longer in other areas, for example Kandahar.
The ISAF transformation to carry out the new training operation “Resolute Support” began in the middle of this year; full operational capabilities were reached Oct. 1.
Approximately 12,000 personnel from both NATO and partner nations will be deployed in support of the mission. The mission is planned to operate with one central hub (in Kabul/Bagram) and four spokes in Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Jalalabad.
This will not be a combat operation — the main focus will be on training and supporting the Afghan Army and police forces to fight against the “Taleban” rebels. Its support will be directed primarily to Afghan ministries and institutions, as well as the higher command level of the Afghan security forces.
The NATO-led operation will have several functions. It will provide support in planning, programming and budgeting; it will ensure transparency, accountability and oversight; it will support the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance, as well as support the establishment and sustainment of such processes as force generation, recruiting, training, managing and development of personnel.
The legal framework for the operation “Resolute Support” is provided by a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was signed in Kabul Sept.30, 2014 by the newly inaugurated Afghan President and NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, and later ratified by the Afghan Parliament on Nov. 27, 2014. The SOFA defines the terms and conditions under which NATO forces will be deployed in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support, as well as the activities that they are set to carry out under this agreement.
The operation will launch Jan. 1, 2015.