Albania is a small, emerging democracy in the Balkan area. It's entire population is about 3.5 million people - about 70% are Muslim, 20% Orthodox Christian and 10% Catholic. Yet, this small country has contributed troops to assist in the Great War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Republic of Albania joined Operation Enduring Freedom on January 10, 2002. They granted overflight rights to all of the NATO aircraft in support of the mission, opened seaports for refueling and maintenance and was one of the nations to contribute troops to the combat operations. It has donated weapons, ammunition, helmuts, and military clothing for a battalion of the Afghanistan Army
The Republic of Albania has contributed troops to Operation Iraqi Freedom. One commando unit was attached to Task Force Olympia on June 6, 2003. Its mission is to undertake and execute security operations: convoy escort, manning checkpoints, guard duty and supporting the new Iraqi police to maintain public order. Today, they are stationed at LSA Diamondback.
From the Albanian troops at LSA Diamondback, Mosul, Iraq:
"We have about 120 soldiers here, but in my country all the people support our guys , and my people like freedom," said Besnik Sokoli, commander, 6th Albanian Contingent.
"In my country, we were not struck by terrorism, but the government and people support Albanian Soldiers fighting terrorism."
"I think now terrorism is the worst sickness and all democratic countries need to put together all their forces to fight the terrorists."
"Albania and the United States have very good relations that started many years ago," said Major Arben Kinji, commander, 7th Albanian Contingent.
"We wanted to do our part and help the Iraqi people become free."
"Most of my soldiers, between 70 and 80 percent, are here for the second time. Their morale is very high and they are very professional." (Albanian soldiers serve six month rotations.)
"They (the Albanian people) don't ask why we support the coalition. Our people back home in Albania are proud that we are here supporting the coalition, and are very proud for what we have."
"I want to be here, not only to support my Soldiers but also the coalition. I want to make my people back home extremely proud of what we have accomplished."
More information on the Albanian Defense Ministry can be found at: www.mod.gov.al/eng/default.asp
With great gratitude for your contribution to the Great War on Terror in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We will ever be grateful for your dedication to freedom for all people. Thank You!