Azerbaijan has dispatched a peacekeeping contingent of 70 soldiers to Afghanistan earlier this week, which includes officers rotating out as well as an overall increase in Azerbaijan’s participation in NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.
At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with the defense ministers of countries supporting Resolute Support in November, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the security situation in Afghanistan remained very challenging. NATO allies and partner countries agreed to boost their troop levels.
When Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev visited Brussels later in the month, he said Azerbaijan would increase its level of effort and send more troops in 2018. On December 29, Azerbaijan’s parliament amended the necessary laws to increase its force level in Afghanistan, which fall under a battalion of Turkey’s armed forces.
Over 13,000 peacekeepers from 39 NATO and partner countries are currently serving in Afghanistan. After more troops are added this year, the NATO peacekeeping contingent is expected to reach 16,000.
According to a press release posted to the president’s official website, the number of Azerbaijani peacekeepers has been increased from 94 to 120 servicemen, including six Azerbaijani officers and two military doctors. Azerbaijan is the only country from the Caspian region supporting Resolute Support.
While not a member of NATO, Azerbaijan has been actively engaged with it since 1992, shortly after the creation of the modern-day post-Soviet state. In 1994, Baku entered a NATO Partnership for Peace Program, formalizing relations and setting up an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which gets revised every two years. Through the IPAP, Azerbaijan and NATO are engaged in regular political dialogues and agreeing on new areas of military cooperation.
Azerbaijan’s armed forces have served under NATO missions in Kosovo (1999-2008), Iraq (2003-2008) and Afghanistan (2002-present).