Minister: Afghanistan decision to be made soon, in light of US withdrawal

Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet, in front of the defense ministry building in Tallinn.
Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet, in front of the defense ministry building in Tallinn. Source: ERR

News that United States President Joe Biden will be withdrawing his country's troops from Afghanistan before the end of this year has prompted Estonia to weigh up following suit, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says.

Speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK), Laanet said that commitment to the NATO alliance as a whole came first and foremost, adding that the actions of two other allies with troops in Afghanistan, the U.K. and Germany, will be key.

"Together in and out together - this is our abiding principle. However, above all, our actions depend on what the British and the Germans do, because we are there [in Afghanistan] with them. We are discussing with these allies what the exit timeframe will be," Laanet said.

"At the moment, the perception is that the British and Germans are pulling out too. We will talk about this. There will certainly be a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense via video link tomorrow (i.e. Wednesday – ed.), where we will obtain more information," Laanet added.

Joe Biden has committed to bringing U.S. troops home no later than September, from a theater which has seen a continual U.S. presence for near to 20 years – beginning in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Afghanistan was seen as a potential safe haven for terror groups such as Al-Qaeda. However, the U.S. had become caught in a bind where it had been periodically expanding its military presence in the country in order to create conditions where the troops could come home wholesale, to no great effect, Biden said.

The main contribution to efforts in recent times from Estonia, which joined NATO in 2004 and has deployed personnel to Afghanistan, Iraq and other regions since then, is a joint training mission, involving an infantry platoon and other personnel.

Afghanistan also carries great significance in Estonia due to the ten-year Soviet War in Afghanistan, which began in 1979. Since it was under Soviet occupation at the time, many from Estonia saw service in Afghanistan after being drafted into the Soviet armed forces.

This article was updated to include Joe Biden's tweet on the matter.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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