Hollande-Inspired Bulgarian Nationalists Fail to Get Afghanistan PulloutDefense | May 16, 2012, Wednesday // 16:06| views
Bulgaria currently has about 600 troops in Afghanistan stationed in Kabul, Kandahar, and the Herat province. Photo by BGNES
Bulgarian nationalist party "Ataka" has failed to bring about an immediate pullout of the 600 Bulgarian troops current serving in ISAF in Afghanistan.
Ataka MP Ventsislav Lakov made a motion Wednesday demanding the withdrawal of Bulgarian troops from Afghanistan, which was motivated, in his own words, by the fact that the new French President Francois Hollande declared himself in favor of pulling out the French troops.
"Things are changing. The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse. We already witnessed a suicide attack against the Bulgarian soldiers. The Ataka party urges the Parliament to rethink its position regardless of the withdrawal strategy that has already been adopted. This should happen more quickly in order to free resources for the development of the Bulgarian army on Bulgarian territory," Lakov stated.
The nationalists' motion for an early withdrawal from Afghanistan was backed only by 7 MPs, with 73 voting against, and 27 abstaining.
In December 2011, Bulgaria's government decided in favor of a major pullout of the Bulgarian troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Bulgaria will bring home three-fourths of its more than 600 troops currently serving within NATO's ISAF mission, under a newly adopted document with the lengthy title "Strategy for the Transformation of the Participation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria in the NATO-led International Forces in Afghanistan."
Defense Minister Gen. Anyu Angelov explained the Bulgarian withdrawal from Afghanistan will be carried out in three phases:
the two Bulgarian medical teams in the province of Herat will be brought home by the end of 2012;
the Bulgarian company currently in charge of guarding the airport in Kabul will come home for good in early 2013
the Bulgarian company currently guarding the airport in Kandahar will follow suit by the end of 2014.
This withdrawal time frame roughly appears to coincide with the US plans for transferring the security responsibilities in Afghanistan to the Afghan security forces by 2014.
After 2014, Bulgaria still plans to be involved in Afghanistan by participating in the training of the Afghan security forces, the Bulgarian Defense Minister explained.
Angelov also made it clear that Bulgaria had no plans of sending in a battle group in Afghanistan.
He himself made a statement back in 2010 that Bulgaria might send a battle group, which, according to media reports, nearly cost him his post; Bulgaria's forces in Afghanistan – not unlike those of the majority of the ISAF countries – have had a support role of patrolling and guarding in Afghanistan.
Bulgaria has not lost any troops in Afghanistan to date (unlike Iraq where it lost 13 men) but in January 2010 four Bulgarian soldiers got seriously injured in a Taliban rocket attack on Kandahar Airport, one of them losing his hand.
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