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President Kaljulaid to Defence Forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan: each day of your service here makes Estonia safer

President Kaljulaid to Defence Forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan: each day of your service here makes Estonia safer © Office of the President of Estonia

22.04.2021

President Kersti Kaljulaid is on a working visit to Afghanistan and she met today with the members of the Estonian Defence Forces on long-term deployment in that country, thanking them for their service. At the meeting the Head of State emphasised that Estonia’s participation in the mission in Afghanistan has significantly strengthened the relations with our country’s allies and made Estonia a safer place.

After the meeting with the Estonian contingent President Kaljulaid issued a statement that is quoted below in full:

“When we discuss the mission in Afghanistan, we must remember how it began. It was merely 10 years after Estonia had regained its independence. Our previous peacekeeping mission involvement was mostly in the Balkans, but only in locations where peace had already been restored. Estonia was not yet a member of NATO or the European Union, but we had a clear goal.

Over the next two decades our state has evolved from the mere military mission capability to the ability, skill and readiness to contribute at the highest level of international diplomacy. Estonia is in the UN Security Council and we raise decisive issues of Afghanistan in the context of this mission at that most challenging global diplomacy round table. Afghanistan has been important to us and we are helping it in various ways. 

Our Defence Forces service personnel currently in Afghanistan are members of the last Estonian unit deployed in this country. Each day of their service at this location makes Estonia safer and better. And not just Estonia, but the whole world. We have not wasted a single day of service of our Defence Forces personnel – and previously rescue workers and mine clearance specialists – in Afghanistan. We have paid a high price. 9 deaths, 39 severe injuries and over 100 traumas. This pain will always remain in our society, linger among the veterans. Every time I was in Paldiski, I stopped at the monument to all our mission members who perished. Our gratitude to them is permanent, as is our deepest respect for all those participating in the missions. 

The Estonians did not come to Afghanistan twenty years ago to pursue personal interests. We came here to stand shoulder to shoulder with our current allies. Please bear in mind that back then we had not joined NATO yet. We came to show that one can rely on us in difficult times. That is why we have joined a number of other missions as well. We have done so because this is what our allies do. This is the only way we can be sure that if we ever find ourselves in trouble, others will come to our rescue.

Still, that was far from a pragmatic or selfish decision. Our decision was based on a set of values. We came here because we believe in democracy and human rights, we believe that women and children are entitled to participation in social life and education, we believe that each nation has the right to live without fear. We came because we believe in freedom.

We have not achieved all the goals set by us and our allies. But Afghanistan today is definitely a better state and a better society than it was 20 yeas ago. Perhaps this country will experience some setbacks after the departure of the allies, so we should do our utmost to ensure that the joys and concerns of the state of Afghanistan and its population do not disappear from the international radar of democracy and human rights.

Once again I would like to thank you and all members of the Estonian Defence Forces. You risk your lives on a daily basis so that we can feel safer at home.” 

Yesterday President Kersti Kaljulaid commenced her working visit to Afghanistan in order to meet with the Estonian Defence Forces personnel stationed here, political leaders of Afghanistan, heads of the NATO and UN missions and representatives of non-governmental organisations. The mission in Afghanistan is the longest and hardest of all the missions in which Estonia has participated so far. It began in 2003 and the current Estonian contingent in Afghanistan comprises 45 volunteers.

 

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