The work of Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) special forces soldiers in the West African nation of Mali has done much to solidify ties with key allies, particularly France, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says.
On presenting mission medals Wednesday to those who took part in Operation Takuba, in the northeast of Mali, Laanet said: "Estonia contributed to the target unit Takuba from 2020 and with that significantly strengthened the allied relations with France."
"Estonia, France and other allies value your professionalism and dedication particularly highly," the minister continued, via a press release.
"You gained invaluable experience while in Mali, but I'm sure you have also shared your skills and knowledge with your fellow allies, in addition to with the units in Mali. You are to be credited for your considered actions, and the accuracy of your tasks, which are an example for those special forces outfits with long-standing traditions from among the NATO superpowers," he went on.
The minister also thanked the soldiers' families for their forbearance while the deployment was ongoing.
The EDF had been providing a regular infantry platoon, engaged primarily in patrolling and based in the western Malian town of Gao, for several years, as part of Estonia's contribution to Operation Barkhane, a French-led counter-terrorism operation which covered a vast swathe of the Sahel region of Africa across several countries that had formerly been French colonies.
Operation Takuba took part in the northeast of Mali and as noted involved the deployment of the EDF's Special Forces (ESTSOF) component.
Two military coups in Mali and the current ruling Junta's use of Russian mercenaries from the ostensibly private security firm Wagner contributed to a decision by Paris to pull out of Mali, one which was followed by similar moves from Sweden and Denmark, as well as Estonia.
The last of the EDF personnel who had been deployed to Mali left the country by the end of last month, it is reported.
France contributes both land forces and equipment, including the Leclerc heavy tank, and fast jets, to the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup and the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission respectively.
Editor: Andrew Whyte