The Czech Army’s six-year mission in helping maintain security at the Bagram military base in Afghanistan will soon come to an end. Newly, the army’s tasks will focus on monitoring and supporting Afghan special forces and operating a field hospital in the country.
The Czech Republic currently has 250 soldiers in Afghanistan. The largest component of this force, around 170 service members, is 13 Guard Company, which maintains outer security around the Bagram military base and airfield in the north west of the country, one of the most important military bases in NATOs Resolute Support mission.
Often this activity includes driving out into the perimeter of the base and eliminating any threats of enemy rocket attacks, but it can also involve tasks such as helping in the training of Afghan soldiers and policemen.
The guard company’s mission is scheduled to end in March and, according to Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar, who visited the troops last week, it is likely to be the last time that Czechs are tasked with guarding the airbase, at least in the foreseeable future.
Czech armed forces sent to the country will newly be focusing on the support and monitoring of Afghan special forces, something the defence minister described as a task that is currently most in demand.
The spokeswoman of the Ministry of Defence, Jana Zechmeisterová, told Czech Radio this comes as no surprise.
“Tasks are constantly revised during every mission based on what is necessary and soldier’s missions are adjusted accordingly. Right now, training is more important for the Resolute Support operation.”
Defence of the airfield has been the task of the Czech contingent for more than six years now and based on previous reports it has thus far lost nine servicemen through actions related to the mission, most recently in 2018, when three soldiers died as a result of a terrorist suicide attack.
IED’s and ambushes are another constant danger and precautions have to be taken when encountering any stranger, whether through radio jamming, drone surveillance, or otherwise. Patrols always have to be on high alert, as one Czech armoured car gun operator described to Czech Radio during a special report last year.
“We have to mainly observe individuals, how they behave, how many people there are in vehicles. We also have to look into the trees if they are not hiding any explosives and look out for any outstanding objects, for example a little flag marking a detonation spot.”
The defence minister has described the current situation in Afghanistan as complicated and said that the country is still waiting for the results of the September presidential elections. He expects that these will be followed by renewed peace talks.
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