The defence ministries of Albania, Fyrom, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) have joined Croatia and Slovenia in a pledge to provide concrete support to training activities by the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, ISAF.
The deal, which came in the form of a memorandum of understanding among the Adriatic Charter nations, was reached at a meeting in NATO's headquarters in Brussels on October 6th. BiH was also represented at the event and vowed to add its signature to the document once it manages to form a state-level government.
The mission will contribute to the Afghan Military Police School in Kabul, where trainers from the Balkan states will help officers develop specialised skills. It will initially involve around 40 members, although their number may be increased in the future.
"An engagement of this kind clearly demonstrates our full support for the new Allied strategy in Afghanistan through enabling critical capabilities and expertise for a successful implementation of the Transition process," Croat Defence Minister Davor Bozinovic, whose country is a mentoring nation at the military police school in Kabul, said at the ceremony.
"This collaboration among Croatia, BiH, Slovenia, Fyrom and Montenegro with the support of our US partner sends a message that states that have recently been the object of international peacekeeping operations today can work jointly in conflict areas in the world, and this is the message to Afghans that investment in peace and security pays off," he added.
Analysts commented the joint initiative is a demonstration of the willingness of former Yugoslav republics to show they have turned their backs on their past and are looking at their joint Euro-Atlantic future.
"I think that this constitutes a positive step regarding the co-operation of ex-Yugoslav republics, and at the same time it fosters their integration within the broader Euro-Atlantic structures," analyst Ioannis Michaletos, who co-ordinates the Southeast European Office of the World Security Network, told SETimes.
"All these countries want to demonstrate to the international community that they are able to co-operate between them, and in a sense, get rid of bad aspects of the past," he added.
According to military analyst Athanassios Drougos, these countries' past experiences will be of great help to training activities in Afghanistan.
"All the above-mentioned countries have been familiar with certain military and rebuilding operations during the last decade; ... beyond any doubt their experiences would be crucial to succeeding in Afghanistan," he told SETimes.
Serbia has not joined the initiative, although participants said the door remains open. According to Michaletos, "Serbia is a special case, because it is not in NATO and it seems likely it will stay that way for the short-term."
"It is likely though that Serbia may eventually send a team to Afghanistan as a peacekeeping force, but I speculate not in co-operation with other countries, but solo and in a bilateral agreement either with NATO as a whole or with the United States in particular," he added.
Drougos believes Belgrade could add great value to the joint efforts. "Over the years, they have had increasing experience with NATO/KFOR as working together with all the Allied troops in Kosovo," he told SETimes.
Southeast Europe's contribution to ISAF was also discussed at a conference in Zagreb on October 12th-14th co-hosted by the Marshall Centre, the MC Alumni Association of the Republic of Croatia and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation.
The event, which brought together 130 participants from Albania, BiH, Bulgaria, Croatia, Fyrom, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Afghanistan, aimed to provide insight into the current situation in Afghanistan and analyse the contributions of Balkan countries to its stabilisation, reconstruction and development."The consensus is that SEE countries will continue to support ISAF as a 'noble and pure' peace mission beyond 2014," the conference's organiser, LTC Arne Lossmann, chief of the Execution Team South-East Europe in the Non-Resident Programmes Directorate at the Marshall Centre, told SETimes.