Latvia to maintain troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq

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Despite US forces' expected withdrawal from Syria and reduction of their mission in Afghanistan, Latvia's National Armed Forces will continue its mission in Iraq and Afghanistan where Latvian troops are training local armies, the Defense Ministry told LSM January 22.

Last December, the White House had ordered the Pentagon to withdraw US troops from Syria, where the country has a 2,000-strong mission fighting Daesh (or Islamic State) terrorists. The decision of US president Donald Trump surprised the allies, but the withdrawal was later made conditional.

The US also plans to cut its 14,000-soldier mission in Afghanistan by half. The US is part of the NATO training mission Resolute Support and participates in campaigns against Daesh and Al-Qaeda. 

Currently, 42 Latvian troops are partaking in Resolute Support, stationed in different bases on Afghan soil. The Defense Ministry said that it is currently planning to have troops on the ground at least until December 31, 2020 as per a parliamentary mandate.

Latvia is also part of the US-led Inherent Resolve mission in Iraq and Syria. There are six Latvian troops in the mission, and they are part of the Danish contingent on the ground. The current parliamentary mandate allows keeping their presence there until February 2020.  

Latvian troops do not take an active combat role in both operations. Latvia has been part of Resolute Support from 2015 and of Inherent Resolve from 2016. The troops will soon be rotated, as a leaving home ceremony was held on January 21 with soldiers going abroad presented with the traditional provisions, namely a Latvian flag and a loaf of rye bread.

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