Troops to come home from Afghanistan - and stay

  • 2004-11-17
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - The experience gained by Lithuanian troops' of the Special Operations Unit in Afghanistan will guarantee their successful implementation as part of NATO's quick reaction force that is currently undergoing formation, Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said upon returning from Afghanistan this week.

During the minister's two-day visit, Linkevicius and an accompanying delegation visited troops of the squadron Aitvaras 04 of the Special Operations Unit serving in Afghanistan. The troops are scheduled to return home in a month upon completing a half-year mission in the U.S.-led operation Enduring Freedom.

At a press conference at Vilnius Airport on Nov. 12, Linkevicius confirmed that special forces troops would no longer be sent to Afghanistan, as preparations for delegating the Special Operations Unit to NATO's quick reaction forces would assume priority.

Four squadrons of the Lithuanian Special Operations Unit have been participating in half-year missions in Afghanistan since 2002, with a part of the troops sent there twice and some of them on three occasions.

"The preparedness of the Special Operations Unit shows Lithuania's quality as well. Our men are given only the best marks and are among the best troops serving in Afghanistan," Linkevicius said.

"The successful reform of the Special Operations Unit has determined its ability to do anything," said armed forces commander Major General Valdas Tutkus, who also traveled to Afghanistan.

The Special Operations Unit is comprised of the special service, the Kaunas-based Vytautas the Great Jaegers battalion and other military units. Aside from the special service troops and Jaegers, each mission in Afghanistan was also attended by combat swimmers.