The US Army has signed a memorandum with Bulgaria to train the first Bulgarian Army battle group by the end of 2012, US Army Europe commander lieutenant general Mark Hertling has said.

“Over the next year we will train the first Bulgarian battle group in an extensive manner, which will pave the way for future such organisations within the Bulgarian army,” Agence France Presse quoted the commander as saying.

About 800 Bulgarian troops will be trained, of which, 120 have already received training with another 100 to follow suit at the beginning of August this year.

The training includes operation of mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles and handling different types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Full-scale training will begin at the beginning of next year at the joint US-Bulgarian training area in Novo Selo, south-eastern Bulgaria.

The training will not include any use of US Army equipment but will make use of the already existing Bulgarian land forces equipment.

Bulgaria currently has about 600 troops, army instructors and military doctors deployed in NATO‘s ISAF operation in Afghanistan.