Commander of the Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Riho Terras and Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu have announced a firm date - April 2014 - for withdrawal of Estonian infantry from southern Afghanistan.
The company to be deployed in Helmand province in November - Estcoy-17 - will be the last one, Terras and Reinsalu told journalists at a briefing in Tallinn Friday. After the pullout, support units, staff officers and Estonia's special ops unit will remain in the country.
The Estonian Defense Forces, currently seeing through their 15th deployment - Estcoy-16 is currently in pre-mission training - have taken part in NATO's Afghanistan operation since 2003.
Nine of the nation's soldiers have died in that time. Over 130 have been wounded.
Last week, the Estonian infantry company serving in Afghanistan moved its base to Camp Bastion after handing over its station in Pimon, Helmand Province to local security forces. A number of other security checkpoints have been handed over.
At the Friday briefing, Terras and Reinsalu acknowledged efforts made for a more secure Afghanistan and noted the experience gained by Estonian troops.
"Hundreds of Estonian officers, NCOs and enlisted men have received real combat experience in Afghanistan. They have learned in Afghanistan to command supporting fire for aircraft, use high-tech observation equipment and carry out operations with the air force, clear complicated IEDs, and use and control drones," said Terras.
"The military operation in Afghanistan has been difficult," said Terras. "Now it is our country's duty of honor to recognize the veterans who fought in Afghanistan and those closest to them."
It had been previously decided by the coalition that combat operations would end by mid-2013 as full security responsibility is handed over to domestic security forces. The international mission will support Afghanistan security forces during the presidential and local elections to be held in April 2014.