Government wants to send up to 347 soldiers on foreign missions
The Cabinet approved a bill which , if passed by Parliament, would allow up to 347 Estonian soldiers to be sent on foreign missions or based abroad in 2016.
“Security is not a one-way street. We can not only consume security, but must also contribute to it,” Defense Minister Hannes Hanso said, adding that the Central African Republic and Mali missions show have lent Estonia experience and have also shown the need for quick reaction. "[...] our internal processes were slower than reality and the situation on the ground deemed," he added.
Amendments to defense legislation will allow Estonia to send troops to foreign missions quicker, from the beginning of 2016.
Hanso said no new mission has been picket yet, and there are a number of possibilities, such as combating the Islamic State.
The bulk of the forces is 210 soldiers for the NATO Response Force.
Other missions include Kosovo (3 soldiers), EUNAVFOR (EU Naval Forces in the Mediterranean - 2 soldiers), EUTM Mali (EU Training Mission in Mali – around 10), MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali – up to 10 soldiers).
Up to 50 soldiers can be sent into a NATO, EU or UN-led military operation. The exact number of soldiers for any such mission would be determined on a case-by-case bases.
A maximum of six soldiers could continue in Afghanistan as part of NATO's Resolute Support mission, and four more in Afghanistan as part of a German-led mine clearing team.
The up to 50 troops in Lebanon, part of the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), could also extend their stay. Up to six soldiers can continue with UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria.
A previous version of the story put the number of troops possible to send abroad at 10 fewer - 337. Comments from Hanso on possible new missions have also been added.