Estonian defense personnel withdrawing from Iraq to Kuwait

Maj. Gen. Martin Herem.
Maj. Gen. Martin Herem. Source: ERR

Estonian troops in Iraq are to moving to Kuwait, in the aftermath of Iranian missile strikes on two bases in the country.

Speaking on ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera Wednesday evening, chief of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) said the personnel, who are primarily there in a training capacity according to defense minister Jüri Luik, should reach Kuwait, which borders Iraq, overnight, and follows an announcement Wednesday evening that Danish personnel stationed in the region were doing the same.

"What happens next ... will be based on what the coalition is doing. We hope we can continue in Iraq," Herem said, adding that if a political decision to increase the number of instructors emerges, the EDF will be ready.

According to Herem, the most critical decision in the near future is whether Estonia will send a new rotation to Iraq early next month. 

"It is our job to show the will that we will continue," he said

Earlier on Wednesday, defense minister Jüri Luik told ERR that Estonia does not plan to send combat units to Iraq, repeating the line when asked by Aktuaalne kaamera.

Luik suggested that U.S. president Donald Trump's appeal to NATO over the crisis could mean an additional need for intelligence aircraft or fleets in the region but since the Estonian NATO training mission is already operating in Iraq, he saw no need to send an additional Estonian infantry unit there.

"Estonia will remain in an advisory role. I do not see us going to Iraq with combat units or having any obligation there. Our role is advisory. Theoretically, it would be possible to increase this number of advisors if the need arises," Luik said.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles overnight on Tuesday at two bases in Iraq which host US and allied forces, in response to the U.S. slaying of high ranking Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike last week. The attack took place in Baghdad.

Herem said there had been information about the attack ahead of it taking place. 

"There was a warning about the attack, but where it came from, I can't confirm." Herem said. 

No Estonians were injured in the attacks and were reported to be off base at the time.

The original AK clip (in Estonian) is here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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