21 July 2021

Romania is the only country that holds a military parade following the Afghanistan mission

Florin Jipa

Romania is the only country that holds a military parade after the Afghanistan mission, other states avoiding such celebration moments as the mission did not end yet and the battlefield outcome is not actually cheering. Two days ago, the EU and NATO have asked the Taliban to end the military offensive in Afghanistan, as it produces many victims among the civilians and destroys the infrastructure.

Image source: MApN

After 20 years of war, the numbers are quite concerning: more than 200.000 Afghan civilians lost their lives, along with more than 50.000 Afghan troops and more than 40.000 insurgents. The countries that were part of this conflict lost around 3.000 soldiers, most of them being Americans. The United States alone spent more than a trillion dollars in this mission. According to the  MoND, Romania, in its 19 years of military presence on Afghan soil, lost 29 soldiers (two in reserve, working for the MFA and UN when they died), more than 200 servicemen were wounded and it spent more than 3 billion Lei.

As for the mission of the soldiers in Afghanistan, the US president, Joe Biden, admitted, on July 8th, in a media statement, that he cannot talk about a `mission accomplished`, when talking about the longest and more complex war in United State’s history. `There is no mission accomplished`, said president Biden. However, Biden added that he cannot compare this withdrawal with the Vietnam one, the occupied Saigon, in 1976, which was developed under pressure and communists’ fire.

The schedule of the Arch of  Triumph parade

The military parade organized on July 21st, which celebrates the end of Romania’s Armed Forces mission in the Afghanistan theatre of operations, taking place at the Arch of Triumph, starts with president’s Klaus Iohannis salute and him saying the name of the 27 servicemen who died during the mission.

Before the detachments start the parade, president Iohannis will lay a wreath at the Arch of Triumph and will decorate the fight flags of the military units which participated in missions in Afghanistan.

Even if the military aircrafts did not fly for the Aviation Day, due to an incident which took place at the rehearsals, on July 21st, a C-130 Hercules and two C-27 Spartan aircrafts will fly over the Arch or Triumph Square. These are the Romanian aircrafts which transported the troops during these 19 years, along with US and NATO aircrafts.

A short history of the mission in Afghanistan

Started soon after the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the military operation in Afghanistan is one of the longest and more complex troops’ deployments after the Cold War. From 1994 to date, more than 60.000 Romanian troops participated to international missions and operations, 32.000 of them in Afghanistan.

The US and allied forces needed only a couple of months to overthrow the Taliban, between October 7th 2001 and December 5th 2001, when a temporary Afghan government was established. What initially seemed an easy mission, turned out to be an impossible one, as the country’s reconstruction and democratization did not end as expected, especially in rural areas, which are still being governed following tribal rules, where village’s elderly make important decisions for the community.

Romania introduced the first troops in Afghanistan (a military police platoon – 25 servicemen and the crew of a C-130B Hercules aircraft) on January 28th 2002, after the Parliament approved the participation through the Decision no.38 from December 21st 2001, and the Government approved the funding on January 30th 2002.

In July 2002, the first infantry battalion of our Armed Forces was dislocated in Kandahar, and that is the 26th Infantry Battalion `Neagoe Basarab`, under the command of colonel-lieutenant Nicolae Ionel Ciuca, the current Minister of Defence.

On June 10th 2003, during the `Enduring Freedom` Operation, the first military assistance mission was introduced in Afghanistan by the Romanian Armed Forces, the `ANA TRAINING` detachment, under the command of major Mircea Gologan (the current brigade general, chief of direction within the Defence Staff), having the mission to contribute to the operationalization and construction process of the new National Armed Forces of Afghanistan.

In September 2006, the 2nd Battalion `Calugareni`, led by colonel-lieutenant Daniel Petrescu (current chief of Defence Staff), was subordinated to Regional Command South/ISAF and re-dislocated from Kandahar to Qalat, Zabul region. Since 2010, Romania increased its contribution with another battalion for the mission that defends this region.

Starting April 2011, Romania took over the command of the Kabul International Airport for one year.

Then, on April 20th 2021, the commandant of the Joint Forces Command issued the order for the withdrawal of the national contingent from the Afghanistan theatre of operations, `Safe Return-A`, asking for the repatriation of the Romanian forces, following security conditions and coordination with the end of the `Resolute Support` mission.

The planned activity ended on June 27th 2021, when the MoND organized another ceremony, marking the end of the Romania’s Armed Forces participation to the most important mission after the end of World War II.

For the execution of the order  `Safe Return-A`, 12 air transport missions were needed, 3 with C-17 aircrafts, provided by USCENTCOM, 8 with C-17 aircrafts provided by HAW Papa and one with a C-130  aircraft from our national reserve. Thus, at the end of Romania’s Armed Forces’ mission to the Afghanistan theatre of operations, 615 soldiers were safely withdrawn along with 59 pallets/ 135.7 tons of equipment and materials.

During the 19 years of participation with military structures in the theatre of operations from Afghanistan, more than 32.000 Romanian soldiers were dislocated (37 rotations of contingents each 6 moths). Out of the 32.000 soldiers, 27 lost their lives and more than 200 were wounded.