A 35-member unit of the Mali armed forces has become the first to complete a 10-week training program in Koulikoro led by six Estonian instructors.
The instructors' team, headed by Captain Jüri Tõnisma, also includes two Lithuanians and is supported by Mali officers and non-commissioned officers, reported uudised.err.ee. The program's working language is English, but instructions are translated into French and Bambara, a regional language.
The Estonians' experience ranges from missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As part of the EU's effort to stabilize the country, which is in a conflict with Islamist rebels, the Estonians are providing assistance in a training, planning and consultation capacity, and are not participating in combat operations. They are based in a Nordic-Baltic training center, alongside Finnish, Swedish, Latvian and Lithuanian instructors. The EU mission involves roughly 500 members of armed forces from 22 countries.
Estonia has also deployed a staff officer and senior staff non-commissioned officer to the EU mission's headquarters in Bamako, the capital. Additionally, one Estonian Defense Forces member is serving in the UN peace-keeping mission MINUSMA.