On 18 July Lithuanian military service-members will be formally deployed to the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA, counter-piracy and armed robbery at sea efforts off the coast of Somalia, at a ceremony held in the garden of Vytautas the Great War Museum, Ministry of National Defence has informed.
Lithuania‚Äôs military contribution to ATALANTA is the largest input of our country to any of the EU operations so far and the first naval operation that Lithuanian military will be part of.
The formal ceremony will be conducted in attendance of Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas, Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lieutenant General Arvydas Pocius, Commander of the Lithuanian Land Force Major General Almantas Leika, Commander of the Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf Lieutenant Colonel Raimundas Vaik≈°noras, as well as families and friends of the deployed troops, and other guests.
In total, Lithuania‚Äôs military contribution to the EU-led counter-piracy operation numbers up to 20, the major part of which forms the Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment (AVPD) made up of 16 troops of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanised Infantry Battalion.
Two service-members who will be in charge of ensuring logistic provision have already been deployed on the ground in Djibouti. The Lithuanian contingent contributed to Operation ATALANTA also includes a Lithuanian officer who has been posted to a command ship headed by the Netherlands in mid-July this year and a staff officer of the Lithuanian Navy commissioned to the EU NAVFOR Operational Headquarters¬†in Northwood (UK).
The period of the Lithuanian AVPD‚Äôs duty off the Somali coast will end this December. Till then, the unit will be employing their assets and equipment for protecting a World Food Programme (WFP) chartered vessel transporting food from Kenya to Somalia from acts of piracy. Lithuanians will take over the task from a Finnish AVPD currently in charge of protecting the ship.
Lithuania first deployed its capabilities to Operation ATALANTA early in 2011 by commissioning a staff officer of the Lithuanian Navy to EU NAVFOR Operational Headquarters.
The largest European Union-led military operation EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA was launched late in 2008 in response to the rising levels of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.
Warships deployed on EU NAVFOR escort WFP ships delivering aid to the Somali people, deter and apprehend pirates and armed robbers in the area of operation, complete monitoring of fishing activity, and conduct other tasks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Currently, 23 EU and three non-EU member states are contributing the up to two thousand personnel of EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA.
EU NAVFOR ‚Äì Operation ATALANTA is not the only EU-led operation that Lithuania is contributing to. From this spring Lithuanian military instructors have been deployed to the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) to provide training for Malian military. The EUTM Mali objective is to enhance operational capabilities and activities of the Malian Armed Forces in order to incapacitate it to ensure territorial integrity of the country and to counter attacks of terrorist groups inside the country.