Another phase of the operation in Afghanistan is over as the Estonian flag has been lowered in the capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah. The contingent will now be serving only at the main base, Camp Bastion.
"The process of closing the bases and transferring troops is a natural part of the Afghanistan operation, and so is lowering flags at the bases being closed, a tribute to all of the personnel who served there;" Lt. Col. Arno Kruusmann, head of the Estonian contingent in Afghanistan, said in a statement following the weekend ceremony.
"In one way, it is the end of a stage but we can't rest on our laurels as long as the Estonian flag waves over Camp Bastion, the ISAF operation goes on," he said.
Members of the Estonian Defense Forces had been stationed in Lashkar Gah since spring 2006. The personnel in the capital usually consisted of a smaller number of staff officers and NCOs, but several other units, such as Estcoy-2 and Estcoy-7, also served there.
Camp Bastion is located a few dozen kilometers from Lashkar Gah. The second-to-last Estonian infantry company that will serve in the country, Estcoy-16, is currently stationed there.
Meanwhile back in Paldiski, Estonia, home of the Scouts Battalion, the last rotation Estcoy-17 was visited on July 30 by British Brigadier General James Woodham.
Woodham, who has been in active duty since 1986 and is in command of the Desert Rats, the 7th armored division famed for outfoxing Rommel in World War II, credited the Estonians on their own tough and clean image: "The Estonian company is seen as a professional force, their capabilities are seen as extremely high."