Azerbaijan will be increasing its level of effort in international peacekeeping missions.
On Monday, the defense ministry announced it will be increasing its number of troops serving under NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan upon the order of the Commander-in-Chief of Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev.
“The process of increasing the number of peacekeepers is planned to be implemented until the first quarter of next year," read an official statement by the Defense Ministry.
Aliyev’s order has come just two weeks after his address in Brussels, where he met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, where he said Azerbaijan would increase the number of servicemen to “further contribute to peace, security and stability in Afghanistan.”
Azerbaijan has been contributing to NATO operations in Afghanistan since 2003 under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission. The first detachment of Azerbaijani peacekeepers included nearly 100 soldiers that were tasked to team up with NATO servicemen for providing security to a television tower station, a central ammunition depot, and conducting regular patrols in the capital city of Kabul.
Since January 1, 2015, when NATO’s mission in Afghanistan entered into a new phase, peacekeepers have been helping to train, advise and assist Afghani security forces and institutions. The peacekeeping contingent of 94 soldiers has been tasked with providing security at the Kabul International Airport.
“For now, the exact number of soldiers to be dispatched to Afghanistan as part of the decision to increase the current serving contingent is not known,” an official from Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry told Caspian News, asking to not be identified.
Azerbaijan has had an official relationship with NATO since 1992, shortly after the country was founded following the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.
By 1994, Azerbaijan teamed up with NATO through the Partnership for Peace program, which provides a diplomatic framework for non-NATO member states wishing to participate in NATO-led programs and activities. An Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with Azerbaijan was agreed upon, which gets revised every two years. IPAPs require holding regular political dialogues, systematizes bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO, and allows for agreeing on new areas of cooperation of mutual interest in a more flexible manner.
ISAF has been NATO’s longest and arguably most challenging mission. The ISAF task force has included a record number of troops: 130,000 soldiers from 51 NATO and non-NATO partner nations.