Soldiers of the Latvian National Armed Forces will take part in two multinational operations - the UN-led Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and Inherent Resolve, a counter-terrorism operation in Iraq, Latvian lawmakers decided on Thursday.
The Latvian Ministry of Defence informed that the Iraqi government in 2014 issued an appeal to all UN member states asking to support its fight against Daesh terrorist group. Responding to Iraq's appeal, the United States put together an international coalition that has launched airstrikes against Daesh infrastructure in Iraq and has been providing support to local security forces and regular Kurdish units in Iraq. Politically, Latvia has joined the coalition and expressed support for its activities.
Denmark, one of the countries involved in the coalition, has offered Latvia joint participation in the operation in Iraq. The Latvian troops would serve with the Danish contingent in Iraq and would be involved in training local Iraqi forces. The training group is supposed to start its participation in the operation in February 2016. Initially it is planned that six Latvian soldiers will go to Iraq, and rotation is planned every six months.
Latvia plans to participate in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) with not more than five troops. The Latvian troops will join the unit lead by the Netherlands.
The Ministry of Defence said earlier that by participating in MINUSMA, Latvia will start participation in the UN operations that is in line with Latvia's resolution to strengthen support to the UN peace-keeping attempts. Latvia so far has not participated in any UN missions.
At present there are seven Latvian troops on a different mission in Mali -- EU training mission (EUTM).
After the tragic events in France and Europe's neighborhood Latvia cannot afford to remain passive and take a waiting position, Latvian Minister of Defence Raimonds Bergmanis told lawmakers, arguing for the Latvian soldiers' participation in the multinational operations.
"After the tragic acts of terror in France and in Europe's neighborhood, in Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Lebanon and elsewhere, we cannot afford to stay passive and take a waiting position. Our allies are asking for assistance to defend Europe's integrity and countries' security. Internal conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, the expansion of terrorism at Europe's borders are directly affecting Latvia's security situation as well," Bergmanis said.
The minister believes that this is the moment for Latvia to provide its contribution to the efforts of the allied forces and the UN to stabilize the situation at Europe's borders, in the North African and Middle Eastrn regions. Furthermore, Latvia's involvement in the UN-led MINUSMA has to be regarded as a direct response to France's request for assistance after the November 13 terror attacks in Paris.
Latvia in early December received from France a request for assistance under Article 42 of the Lisbon Treaty, asking member states to provide both military and non-military support to operations against Islamic militants. France asked to replace its troops in military missions in Mali or the Central African Republic, so it can use its own troops in the fight against the Daesh.