While Hungary’s Afghanistan policy remains unchanged, at the request of NATO the Hungarian Defence Forces are going to transform their role in Afghanistan so that they can contribute even more effectively to the Asian country’s becoming independent and more secure, Defence Minister Csaba Hende stressed at a press conference on Thursday.

Csaba Hende stressed that Hungary’s Afghanistan policy remains unchanged and our country continues to support NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan. In the interest of assuming a more effective role, however, Hungary is going to transform its activity in the ISAF mission at the request of the North Atlantic Alliance.

As part of the transformation, the Hungarian-led HDF Provincial Reconstruction Team (HUN PRT) is going to complete its mission and the Hungarian Defence Forces will withdraw this contingent from Baghlan Province in March 2013. This also means that Hungary terminates its development activity in the province. Csaba Hende pointed out that thanks to the Hungarian soldiers’ activity, nearly 100,000 people have experienced an improvement in their quality of life, as considerable progress has been made in the fields of education, health care and agriculture, and significant development projects have been implemented in the field of infrastructure too.

At the press conference it was stated that in accordance with the government’s decision, the Hungarian Defence Forces will take over the lead nation role in force protection (FP) at Kabul International Airport (KAIA) for six months as of October 1, 2012. The Minister stressed that Hungary considers this mission a great honour.

Speaking about the helicopter air mentor teams, – i.e. the Mi-17 Air Advisory Team and the Mi-25 Air Mentor Team –, the Minister told the press that Hungary will extend their mandates in accordance with the government’s decision.

Also in accordance with the governmental motion adopted on Wednesday, the Hungarian Defence Forces Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) is going to be converted as well. Reinforced and augmented with a staff element under the designation HDF Special Operations Forces (SOF) Contingent, it will be able to operate more independently with less allied support and to help with the training and capability-building of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Csaba Hende noted that due to the transformation there will be a temporary increase in the number of Hungarian soldiers serving in Afghanistan, but next spring a significant drawdown will start in line with the NATO exit strategy.

The Minister of Defence stressed that the activities carried out by Hungarian troops in Afghanistan expand the experience of the Hungarian Defence Forces in crisis response operations conducted abroad and thus increase the territorial defence capability of Hungary.

(Ministry of Defence)