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Lithuania to deploy special operations forces to Afghanistan in NATO train and assist role

Lithuania is to deploy special operations forces to Afghanistan in a train and assist role in support of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission following requests from NATO and allies, the Ministry of National Defence said in a press release.

The additional troops are to deploy to Kandahar in April and will train and assist local forces alongside American troops, the Thursday, February 22 release said. Lithuanian Special Operations Forces previously operated in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2015.

There are currently 21 Lithuanian soldiers serving in Afghanistan, mainly in NATO’s headquarters, and the new deployment will not exceed the limit of 50 imposed by the Seimas, Lithuania’s unicameral parliament.

The country will also has also earmarked an annual spend of $500,000 (€415,000) from 2018 to 2020 for “maintenance and training of the Afghan national security forces.”

“This is Lithuania’s contribution to the efforts to strengthen international security. Lithuania receives strong support from our allies, therefore we have to contribute according to our means to the fight against issues of global character by helping prevent expansion of terrorism,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said.

The Resolute Support train, advise and assist mission replaced the ISAF in January 2015.

In November, NATO defense ministers agreed to deploy 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that around half of the new deployment would “non-U.S.”

“We are focusing on training the Afghan special operations forces, which have proven so key in the fight against the insurgents,” he said, stressing that the additional personnel would be part of the Resolute Support train, advise and assist mission and would not have combat roles. Stoltenberg added that there would also be more help to develop the Afghan Air Force.

Lithuania currently has a total of approximately 120 troops deployed around the world, including in Iraq in support of the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve, as well as to Kosovo, Ukraine, Mali, Central African Republic.

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