Friday, 5 October 2012

Lithuanian Defence Minister, NATO and ISAF Authorities Discuss Lithuania’s Plans for Troop Withdrawal

Lithuania Minister of National Defence Rasa Jukneviciene started her visit in Afghanistan on Tuesday by meetings with Adrian J. Bradshaw, Deputy Commander International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Maj. Gen. Jim Ferron, Deputy Commanding General NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A), Afghan Minister of Finance Hazrat Omar Zakhilawal, and Ambassador of the European Union in Afghanistan Vygaudas Usackas.

At the meeting with ISAF Deputy Commander tendencies of the development of the security situation in Afghanistan were presented to Minister R. Jukneviciene while Lithuanian Defence Minister informed on Lithuanians plans for military commitment in Afghanistan in 2013. “Lithuania has scheduled to transfer the responsibility for security in Ghor onto local forces fully in the second semester of 2013 and to terminate the activity of Chaghcharan Provincial Reconstruction Team by the end of the following year,” said R. Jukneviciene. She assured that that Lithuania will not withdraw from the military and civilian commitments in Afghanistan till the end of the ISAF operation in 2014.

Lt Gen A. Bradshaw emphasised that the participating countries have to present explicit force withdrawal plans to receive the required support from the International Security Assistance Force.

At the meeting with Deputy Commanding General NTM-A Maj Gen J. Ferron Defence Minister stressed that Lithuania’s interest is to participate with partner countries in the mission. “The message we are sending is clear – we came together and we leave likewise,” Minister said.

She also touched upon the question of transit related to the withdrawal of ISAF military capabilities and equipment from Afghanistan: “We have an adequate experience and a developed infrastructure for conducting transit from Afghanistan. We a prepared to deliver our services to the allies,” R. Jukneviciene said.

Deputy Commanding General NTM-A thanked Lithuanians for their contribution to the training of Afghan helicopter pilots operating Mi-17 and emphasised the great need for such instructors in ISAF. According to him, the mission is successful and the security situation is gradually improving.

Lithuanian Defence Minister requested political back-up of Afghan Minister of Finance in retrieving 2 million 113 thousand Litas frozen at the Development Bank of Afghanistan. In his turn Afghan Minister informed that currently the issue is the prerogative of the Central Bank of Afghanistan but he promised to attend to the fate of the frozen financial assets.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces had bank accounts in the Development Bank of Afghanistan since 2007 for the financial resources for maintaining military units of Lithuania in Afghanistan.

General Inspection of the Ministry of National Defence had opened an official investigation into the activity of several officers of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Logistics Command, an investigation was also launched by the Special Investigation Service. The Bank was closed down after the suspicions of illegal activities were declared and its obligations were transferred to the Central Bank of Afghanistan.

Minister also met with EU Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas with whom she discussed security situation in the country and Lithuania’s plans to hand over the responsibility for security to local security forces.

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