ZAGREB, 16 September 2020 – The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović has welcomed home soldiers of the 12th Croatian Contingent (HRVCON) from the “Resolute Support” peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan on Tuesday night in Zagreb.
The end of the 12th Croatian contingent’s participation in NATO’s peace mission was officially marked at Marmal camp in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on Saturday and no Croatian troops would remain in the mission.
Since the start of Croatia’s participation in the Afghanistan mission in 2003, a total of 5,722 members of the Croatian Armed Forces, including 238 women, have served in the mission.
In his address to the soldiers, President Milanovic stated that “the moment has come for Croatian soldiers to return home after seventeen and a half years.”
The president reminded that members of the Croatian Army have been participating in “one of the most delicate missions of its kind in history” since March 2003, and said: “NATO mission, which was a continuation of the confrontation with terrorist groups in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks States, is covered by a UN Security Council Resolution. Thus, with a very clearly defined legal framework in 2003, Croatia decided, for the first time, then as a candidate for NATO membership, to participate in such a mission. We did not want to send troops to Iraq. We, like many other countries, had certain legal and political obstacles. However, we decided for Afghanistan, practically immediately, very quickly, there was no dilemma.“
President Milanović reminded that he himself, then as Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, took a very active part in preparing the ground for the adoption of that decision, which in the end, as he said, was made by the political leadership.
“Seventeen years later, I estimate – and I think the vast majority of our people think so because the Croatian army is the army of the Croatian people, the Croatian state – that this mission has slowly come to an end and that there is no reason for the Croatian army to stay so far from home. Your experiences gained there, you and all your predecessors, your colleagues and friends, Croatian soldiers, are valuable. Unfortunately or fortunately, they are not war, but you really don’t want that for anyone. Because what Croatia went through twenty-some years ago – and many still remember or participated in it – is again a kind of experience that probably none or almost none of the people you met had. This is a quieter time now. The military needs to participate, to cooperate with others, to orient itself simply in the world in which it lives to see how good you are, in what others are better than you, in what you are better than others. And that is why this kind of international military cooperation and participation will continue in some other way. Somewhere else, somewhere maybe closer, but the story of Afghanistan has come to an end. And in a way, I am glad about that,” said President Milanović, who expressed regret over the death of Croatian soldier Josip Briski in Afghanistan.
“I am sorry for the sacrifice we had last year. However, our girls and boys are still returning alive and well to their families. I wish you all the best, to be healthy, to continue doing this special job, a vocation, to progress in it, to build yourself. And that you are faithful and loyal to the Homeland, I don’t even have to tell you that, you know that yourself. Because if you didn’t, you would never have simply taken on this job and this way of life. Thank you very much again! You were the pride of Croatia. You have done an important job at the same time. It is all looked at, seen, written down, it is the Croatian reputation and you have very, very well constructively contributed to that reputation. Thanks again and all the best to you and your families! Živjeli (cheers),” the president concluded.
Answering reporters’ questions, President Milanović said that there was no need to hurry with regard to the Croatian Army’s participation in some other peace missions.
“NATO may make such a request, but the decision is entirely up to us,” he said.