Lithuania's mission in Afghanistan: hot tea may be more important than machine guns

  • 2007-02-14
  • By Arturas Racas
VILNIUS - It will soon be two years since Lithuania took over the leadership of a NATO mission in Afghanistan. The Baltic country, which joined NATO in March 2004, has been leading one of NATO's Provincial Reconstruction teams since June 2005.

This is the first time Lithuania has been commanding other, older NATO members, including Britain, Denmark and Iceland, on missions, but its contribution has already won praise by NATO's leadership and heads of its member states, including the recent compliments by George W. Bush during his meeting with the Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus.
Lithuanian troops are responsible for the Afghanistan's Ghor province, known for its poppy plantations. The main task of the mission is to support local authorities, ensuring safety and stability in the region.

Some 120 Lithuanians are deployed in Afghanistan, and none have been involved in major military conflicts to date. The only mishap so far was when a soldier drank an electrolyte from the wrong bottle and had to be hospitalized.
But this does not at all mean that Lithuanians are out of business in Afghanistan.
They organized courses for some 40 midwives from all villages in the province last November, and the same month contributed to the reconstruction of a foster home for children who are burn victims.

These were not heroic deeds, but the local community was said to notice the benevolence of Lithuanian troops.
It was demonstrated again this week when the Lithuanians rushed to help a group of local residents who found themselves trapped in a snowy mountain pass.
"Lithuanian troops were called to help by the director of the Chagharan hospital, who asked for assistance in a rescue operation," the Lithuanian defense ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, some 30 Afghans from the Chahar Sadeh district 's including sick people, a pregnant woman and the regional governor 's were stuck at the mountain pass which had become blocked after eight trucks were bogged down in snow.
Lithuanian troops hauled the trucks out of their snowy trap and cleared the road, while military doctors gave aid to the frozen people and treated them with hot tea.

"The trapped people were in very serious shape. They were hungry and frozen, as they spent four days in the mountains", Tomas Matijosaitis, head of the rescue team, was quoted by the ministry.
"The governor expressed his gratitude for the help and stressed that the good will of the troops helps to strengthen mutual trust between the international force and local residents," Matijosaitis added.
In the arena of war-torn Afghanistan, Lithuanian troops have shown that hot tea can sometimes be a far more effective weapon than a machine gun.