This week Lithuanian military personnel begin participation in a new NATO-led multinational operation in Iraq, NATO Mission Iraq (NMI). Two officers Lithuania assigns have already deployed to the area of operation in Bagdad and will soon begin service. The non-combat operation greenlighted by NATO at the request of the Government of Iraq in 2018 at the NATO Summit in Brussels will train local security forces. Lithuanian troops will serve at the operational headquarters at the U.S. military base in Bagdad. It is the second location in Iraq that Lithuanian military personnel is deployed to.
The NATO Mission Iraq is the 11th multinational operation Lithuania is contributing troops to. Approximately 170 Lithuanian soldiers are planned to be sent to multinational operations in Europe, Asia, and Africa, led by NATO, European Union, United Nations, and other allies this year.
According to a public opinion poll carried out by request of the Ministry of National Defence in December 2018, the majority of Lithuania’s population support Lithuania’s efforts to sustain peace and stability in the world, prevent inter-state and ethnic conflicts, and fight international terrorism together with the international community.
According to the poll results, 72% of the respondents thought Lithuanian soldiers should be deployed to multinational operations if such was the request of NATO allies. Also, 68% of the respondents agreed that Lithuania should step up its contribution to the fight against international terrorism.
Lithuania has been contributing to another multinational operation in Iraq – the US-led International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve since 2017 with 6 military instructors who assist in training local security forces. The soldiers are serving in composition of the Danish Contingent in the northwestern part of Iraq, city of Ramadi.
This year Lithuania will maintain its contribution to the NATO-led multinational Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan. In 2018 Lithuania more than doubled its contribution to the mission for training Afghan national security forces from 20 to 50. The number is planned to stay the same in 2019. Lithuanian soldiers are serving across different positions in Kabul, Herat, and Kandahar.
One Lithuanian soldier will continue serving in the NATO-led multinational Kosovo Force (NATO KFOR). Lithuania has been a part of the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo since late 2012, movement control specialists of the Lithuanian Armed Forces assigned to the mission rotate every four months.
Fifteen Lithuanian soldiers will be deployed to EUNAVFOR Anti-piracy Operation ATALANTA in the scheduled rotation period. Already 5th Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment deployed by the Lithuanian Armed Forces will be formed by military personnel of the Lithuanian Navy. The main task of Lithuanian soldiers is to protect a World Food Programme ship carrying humanitarian aid, mostly food, to the people of Somalia over the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters. One Lithuanian officer constantly fills a position in the operational headquarters in the United Kingdom on a rotational basis.
Lithuania will continue its participation in EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA in the Central part of Southern Mediterranean Sea. In 2019 Lithuania will deploy a 12-strong Vessel Boarding Team that will operate aboard a German warship. The unit formed by soldiers of the Lithuanian Navy, Land Force and Special Operations Forces sending flag inquiries and identifying ships suspected of carrying illegal weapons or migrant trafficking, interception, boarding and detention of suspects and their sea transport. Additionally, two Lithuanian officers will serve aboard a command ship of the Italian Navy and one more – in the operational headquarters of Operation SOPHIA in Rome.
Two Lithuanian soldiers will continue being assigned to the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM MALI) on a rotational basis. Instructors of the Lithuanian Armed Forces are serving in Bamako and Koulikoro where they are helping to develop operational capabilities and activities of the Malian Armed Forces so that they are able to ensure the country’s territorial integrity and counter attacks of terrorist groups inside of the country.
Lithuania will continue contributing to the EU Training Mission in the Central African Republic (EUTM CAR) as well, with two officers. Lithuanians are tasked with strategic level advising, arrange military education and individual training for officers and NCOs and contribute to training operational forces while deployed to the city of Bangui on a rotational basis.
The military contribution of current size, 39 soldiers, will be retained to the UN-led operation in Mali, MINUSMA. Lithuania assigns a 34-strong Force Protection Unit and a National Support Element to the UN-led operation to ensure international force protection in composition of the German Contingent. Five more troops are serving across operational headquarters in Bamako, Gao and Timbuktu.
Approximately thirty Lithuanian soldiers will continue serving in the Military Training Mission Ukraine in 2019 to ensure training of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They will carry out mission tasks in 8 locations in Northern, Southern, and Western Ukraine. Lithuanian military are not taking part in combat actions, however, they train military forces, specialists, snipers, and arrange various courses.
On the basis of the mandate of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania concerning deployment of soldiers assigned to the NATO Response Force and the Joint Expeditionary Force, as well as serving in NATO EU military commands, to multinational operations, nine Lithuanian troops assigned to the 3rd NATO Signal Battalion will be deployed to the NATO Support Mission in Turkey in 2019.