An Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) platoon newly-slated for the French-led counter-insurgency Operation Barkhane has largely arrived in the West African country of Mali, Baltic News Service reports.
The bulk of the BKN-08 Estpla personnel arrived in the city of Gao, where the EDF has been based for several years, while Maj. Vjatseslav Senin relieved Maj. Argo Sibul of command, as per schedule, the defense ministry says.
Maj. Senin said that in cooperating with its allies, the EDF is boosting the security of not only the local populace, but also, ultimately, Europe, and with it, Estonia.
He said: "The main group of the infantry platoon arrived today and is about to achieve initial combat readiness in a few hours. BKN-08 Estpla will start performing its duties in a few days already."
Operation Barkhane as a whole inolves several of the Sahel nations, many of them former French colonies, and thus a vast swathe of territory, and is also focused on combating human trafficking and terrorism.
Estonia's rationale for taking part primarily revolves around a trade-off; helping to secure the EU's southern approaches in Operation Barkhane and other initiatives in return for the presence of both the EU and NATO in Estonia, at Tapa and Ämari and with it the securing of the union's eastern flank.
Maj. Senin expressed his gratitude to the previous contingent for a seamless handover procedure, wishing them a safe trip back home and a happy time with family during the upcoming holidays.
Junior Warrant Officer Janek Pent from BKN-08 Espla said concurred that the takeover of responsibilities and duties from the outgoing platoon had gone smoothly.
He said: "We went on patrol with the previous platoon three times and received a very good overview of our area of responsibility and the environment. The fact that all squad leaders have participated in the operation Barkhane and are familiar with the area of responsibility helped a lot; in addition, we have a detailed overview of the other tasks of our platoon, which are guarding of the base and rapid response to emergencies. The main unit just arrived, we will achieve tentative combat capability in a few hours and full combat capability in a few days."
Gao, on the banks of the River Niger, is temporary home to over 1,500 troops from several countries involved in Operation Barkhane, with the EDF component tasked with patrolling, base protection and manning of a rapid response unit.
Editor: Andrew Whyte