Slovakia sends more troops to Afghanistan

PRAGUE: Slovakia will definitively withdraw all troops from Iraq after almost four and a half years, and send more soldiers to NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, the Slovak parliament has confirmed. By the end of this year, the remaining two Slovak troops from the Iraqi Freedom operation command will leave Iraq, according to a report reaching here from Bratislava, Slovakia.

Prime Minister Robert Fico promised to withdraw Slovaks from Iraq in his policy statement last summer.On the other hand, the government will reinforce its contingent in Kosovo and Afghanistan.Slovakia will send another 50 troops to Afghanistan next year so their total number will increase to 111.

A new 35-member guarding unit will go to Afghanistan to protectthe Tarin Kut air base in the Afghan province of Oruzgan. An eight-member Slovak team will work in the Czech field hospital at the Kabul airport for six months. Other Slovak soldiers will operate in provincial reconstruction teams, in the ISAF command and they will also help train the Afghani military.

At present, Slovakia has 57 engineers in the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.They are involved in reconstruction works, repairing the airport and mine disposal in the southern Afghan town of Kandahar.

The total costs of all Slovak troops in Afghanistan would amount to 356 million crowns (1 U.S. dollars equals 22.529 Slovak crowns) in 2008. The Slovak parliament also agreed on the enhancement of the country’s military presence in Kosovo, where there are currently 135 soldiers in the joint Czech-Slovak battalion.Two Mi-17 transport helicopters and another 39 Slovak troops will be deployed in the mission from mid-December to mid-June, 2008.

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Rubab Saleem

Rubab Saleem is Editor of Pakistan Times

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