Estonian infantrymen serving in Afghanistan were out on drill on June 23 but got their traditional Midsummer bonfire, barbecue and fun yesterday, with visiting Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu acting as the proverbial torch bearer.
Reinsalu traveled to the region on June 27 as one of the periodic morale-boosting visits undertaken by Estonian officials.
Reinsalu thanked Estonian troops serving in Camp Bastion in Helmand province for their "exemplary” and “difficult” service in NATO’s most important foreign operation.
“You are fighting for Estonia’s foreign and security policy interests in Afghanistan, fulfilling our international obligations,” said Reinsalu. “Thanks to your contribution to our relations with allies, our international ties, credibility and visibility are greater than ever before. Everyone knows how good Estonian soldiers are in battle.”
The defense minister stressed that the next 12 months in Afghanistan would be extremely important as the Afghanistan security forces that took over the security responsibilities last week must be able to prove that they will be able to manage the task. Reinsalu also told Estonian Defense Forces personnel about the situation in the country after the security responsibilities are handed over to the local army and police.
He fielded questions from troops on recent changes to legislation, which among other things secured an average 17 percent rise in salaries.
St. John’s Day was celebrated with a traditional tug of war, other strength competitions and a mixed grill, the Defense Ministry said.
Earlier on his visit, Reinsalu met the Afghan Defense Minister Bismellah Khan Mohammad, diplomats residing in Kabul and NATO military and civilian representatives. He also visited the Estonian Defense Forces special operations group, whose service in Afghanistan he called outstanding and critical for developing the relevant capabilities in the forces as a whole.