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I appreciate and take pride in the job we all have done in Ghor, Minister of National Defence says


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On September 20 a formal homecoming and decorations ceremony was held for the last shift of the Provincial Reconstruction Team of Ghor province (PRT-17) in the square of the Ministry of National Defence in Vilnius.


“Today we greet you as well as we are proud of you for having completed this key mission in Afghanistan. You have transferred the responsibility for their own security to Afghan people as well as you have earned respect and great regard of local population and the entire NATO. You have turned us stronger. Also, security of our nation and all of us has been enhanced. You helped us prove that we are a strong and proud ally – unafraid of challenges and capable of standing up to them,” Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas said at the formal ceremony for the troops who have completed the mission in the province of Ghor.


The Minister also thanked all the rotations of the PRT, personnel, commanders, foreign military and civilian members who had joined the Lithuanian-led mission in Afghanistan. “I appreciate and I am proud of the job we all have done in Ghor province,” Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas said.


“As we are looking at the troops lining here in the square we can already say: “It’s done! We have completed the mission!”, said Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Arvydas Pocius greeting the troops. “There have been unusual challenges waiting for you in the area of operation, from extremely adverse climatic conditions, poor infrastructure, and logistic challenges restricting any activity to threats originating from combat actions. Lithuanian blood was shed on the soil of Afghanistan too. We did not escape combat injuries and our most painful loss is the death of Sergeant Arūnas Jarmalavičius when defending the PRT compound. People of Afghanistan understand and highly appreciate the assistance demanding sacrifices that the Lithuanian military along with the international community have given to their country, while we have gathered priceless combat experience.”


The event was also attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius, Chair of the Committee on National Security and Defence of the Parliament Artūras Paulauskas, MPs, leadership of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, commanders of Chaghcharan PRT rotations, representatives, ambassadors and defence attachés of the countries which had contributed to PRT mission, relatives of troops, and other guests.


Minister Juozas Olekas and Lt Gen Arvydas Pocius presented National Defence System Medals for Deployment on International Missions and commendation certificates to PRT-17 personnel who stood in a formation under the lead of Lieutenant Colonel Tomas Masaitis.


The parade symbolically took place in the same square from where the first shift of the PRT headed by Colonel Gintautas Zenkevičius was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2005.


The Minister of National Defence and the Chief of Defence opened a memorial plaque in the White Hall of the Ministry of National Defence to mark the largest multinational mission Lithuania had been involved in. Chief of Defence Lieutenant General A. Pocius presented memorial souvenirs to the commanders of all the PRT rotations.


Furthermore, Ministries of National Defence and Foreign Affairs will co-organise a press conference in the Constitution Hall at the Parliament on October 9 which will provide a summing-up of Lithuania’s activities in the province of Ghor in Afghanistan.


Lithuania took up running an International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) PRT in 2005. It was a project of a joint civilian-military character. Lithuania’s collaborative efforts with other countries, Denmark, Georgia, Iceland, Japan, USA, and Ukraine, helped Afghan government expand its influence in the province and ensured security in Ghor.


After the withdrawal of the PRT, Special Operations Squadron deployed in southern Afghanistan, Lithuanian-led Air Mentoring Team training Afghan helicopter pilots, National Support Element providing logistic support to Lithuanian military in Afghanistan, officers posted NATO Operational Headquarters, and Protection Team of the Head of the Lithuanian Special Mission in Afghanistan continue service in Afghanistan.


More than 2.5 thousand troops of the Lithuanian Armed Forces had rotated serving as the PRT over the duration of the mission. By joining efforts with military servicemembers from other countries cooperating in Ghor they ensured security and stability as well as conditions for local government to perform its functions and implement civilian projects more safely.


More than 200 development cooperation projects completed in Ghor enhanced capacity of local governmental institutions, education and healthcare sector, advanced rural development, improved infrastructure, and other areas.


Lithuanian troops also trained and consulted the Afghan National Security Forces, i.e. police and military officers in Ghor province that are currently taking care of security in Ghor. Personnel of the Lithuanian-led PRT prepared more than 700 Afghan policemen of various ranks and 1.2 thousand local military.


Lithuanian military handed over the responsibility for security in the province to local Government and withdrew from Chaghcharan, capital of Ghor where the Lithuanian-run compound was established, late this August.

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