Sunday, May 9, 2010
Estonian Prime Minister visits Estonian troops at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan
Estonian Prime Minister, Mr Andrus Ansip, has made a visit to Estonian troops at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan
Mr Ansip met with troops of the 150 strong Estonian Company (EstCoy), currently deployed as part of the NATO led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
He was accompanied throughout by Brigadier General Neeme Valin, Chief of the Estonian Defence Forces Headquarters.
He received a brief on Estonian operations in Afghanistan from staff of the EstCoy Headquarters.
He later addressed soldiers who had gathered for the visit and answered questions on a range of subjects including the provision of education opportunities for serving Estonian soldiers and the state of the Estonian Economy.
After lunch with United States Major General Richard P. Mills, Commander Task Force Leatherneck, in the Camp Bastion Super Kitchen, he watched Estonian troops carry out counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) training and joined them in practicing IED identification drills.
Speaking at Camp Bastion, Mr Ansip said: “This is the second time for me to visit Afghanistan. The first time was 3 ½ years ago and I can see some improvements here in Afghanistan already.
“Here [in Bastion] we can see a lot of military people and we can see possibilities for training of our soldiers and in general I am looking forward quite hopefully. Of course it takes time here in Afghanistan. Today yes, only 50% of Afghan children can go to school, but it’s much more than ten years ago.”
Speaking about the Estonian contribution to the ISAF mission he said: “In Estonia, we got huge support from the different countries when this support was really needed and now when we are able to support our allies, this is our moral duty to do that. If we will act together with our allies in those different missions then we can hope others will support Estonia also, when their support will be really needed again.
“This British co-operation is really fruitful. We are not only acting together in military meaning, but we are making together some coalition projects, and also Estonians they are trying to develop a health care system here in Helmand province. But in general, I would like to say Estonian soldiers; they just say to me, that to serve together with British soldiers, it is a highlight in their military career”.
Othe issue of a potential increase in Estonian troop numbers he said: “On a per capita basis, our participation here in Afghanistan is quite good already but in Estonia, our people can understand that freedom is not free and we have to act together with our allies and Estonia will stay here in Afghanistan until it will be needed.
“I’m sure we are doing really important job here in Afghanistan and I wish good luck to British soldiers and Estonian soldiers here in Afghanistan”.
Captain Vilijar Kurg, Spokesman for EstCoy welcomed the Prime Minister’s visit: “It is important that the Prime Minister visits us in Camp Bastion. It just gives us the support actually we need. It’s useful that the people in Estonia, they haven’t forgotten about us and especially the Prime Minister”.
The Prime Minister was welcomed to Camp Bastion by Colonel Angus Mathie, Commander Bastion Joint Operating Base. He said: “He had been here 3 ½ years ago when Bastion was quite small, so clearly he saw a large difference from his previous visit. But he had an enjoyable visit. He saw his troops and the Estonian contingent, and saw that we are grateful for their support.
“They [the Estonians] are equal partners in every sense of the word, much like the Danes who are also here with us. It is a great privilege to meet the Estonian Prime Minister and to help the Estonians put on a good show for him".
EstCoy operates from Patrol Base Wahid, a military base in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province. The Company falls under the command of the British led Task Force Helmand, part of Regional Command South. It is commanded by Major Sergei Guselnikov. The current EstCoy is the ninth rotation of troops. Tours of duty are six months in length.
Picture credit: Captain Philip Atkinson SCOTS
The Estonian National Support Element is based at Camp Bastion and supports the EstCoy in real life and logistical matters.