President Zeman thanks soldiers on missions through a video call

Zeman calls them every year before Christmas

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: iDNES.cz, Czech News Agency

Like every year before Christmas, President Miloš Zeman thanked Czech soldiers on foreign missions through a video and telephone call. Together with Minister of Defense Lubomír Metnar and Chief of General Staff Aleš Opata, he spoke with unit commanders in Afghanistan, Mali, Latvia, Sinai and the Golan Heights.
According to Jan Pejšek, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, the Czech Army currently has about 330 soldiers on missions with the largest representation deployed in Afghanistan, Mali and the Baltics.
In recent years, the Czech army’s attention was focused mainly on Afghanistan, but the involvement of allied troops in this country has been gradually declining. Therefore, the Czech contribution also decreased. According to the current mandate, there can be up to 390 troops in Afghanistan, and from the beginning of next year, it will be 205 troops. The current number is lower because the Czech army ended the guarding of the Bagram Air Base this year.
The mission in Mali, where the European Union has a training mission to help the Malian army, is gradually gaining in importance. Czech soldiers are in charge of protecting the mission headquarters in the capital of Bamako and the Koulikoro training base.
Moreover, the Czech Army, through General František Ridzák, has been in command of the entire mission since June. In addition to the EU mission, Czech troops will also participate in direct battles against Islamic terrorists in the Takuba unit, which will be commanded by France. The unit soldiers will be in charge of advising Malian soldiers but will also set out with them on joint operations. The Czech army will send its special forces from Prostějov to complete this task.
Meanwhile, Czech troops operate in the Baltics as part of the Alliance’s advanced presence. In response to heightened tensions in relations with Russia in 2016, NATO decided to make its eastern members stronger by sending four battlegroups to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
In Latvia, the Czech army currently has a unit of about 60 soldiers, the core of which consists of members of the mortar platoon of the 44th Light Motorized Battalion. There are also specialists in electronic warfare stationed in Lithuania.
A unit with a CASA aircraft operates in Sinai as well — the one that lost a member in November. Michaela Tichá, together with other allied soldiers, died in the wreckage of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which crashed during an observation flight.
In the Golan Heights, Czech troops are part of a mission that oversees peace between Syria and Israel. Currently, the mandate allows for the deployment of five soldiers. Other soldiers also work, for example, in Iraq and the Balkans.
Title image: In this Wednesday, April 3, 2019 file photo, Czech President Milos Zeman addresses the media at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. The Czech president agreed to appoint a newly proposed candidate for a Cabinet minister, defusing a dispute that could have caused the government to fall. Zeman was ready to appoint former foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek as the country’s new culture minister, Zeman’s spokesman said on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Zeman had rejected since May the original candidate proposed by the junior coalition party, the Social Democrats. (AP Photo/Michael Gruber, file)


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