EDF colonel: Estonian troops in Iraq would mainly be in support roles
In an appearance on Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" on Wednesday, Col. Mart Vendla, deputy chief of staff of the Headquarters of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) said that EDF service members deployed to Iraq under Operation Inherent Resolve would primarily provide defense and support to military bases and convoys.
The Estonian government on Tuesday greenlit a proposal by Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) to seek a Riigikogu mandate for increasing Estonia's military contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) — a U.S.-led international military intervention against the Islamic State group (IS) — in Iraq from the current five to up to 110 EDF service members through the end of the year.
According to Vendla, the operation's current mission is to ensure security.
"This means that they are largely engaged in consulting," he explained. "So that is training support for troops, intelligence and everything related to that."
The deputy chief of staff said that the EDF was invited to join the mission in Iraq by the U.S.
"According to current info, the plan is to contribute [a unit up to] reduced infantry company in size, plus a defense unit and a special operations unit," he said. "That is the current position and the one based on which we are operating, and should the situation change, then we'll change the profile of our activities."
Vendla explained that the infantry company's primary role would be the defense of one base, and the rapid response unit's would be to respond flexibly to the movements of convoys.
He stressed that while the war against IS has largely been concluded, the situation there is nonetheless volatile.
"IS' operation capacity has been curtailed, but there are certainly various groups there due to whom vigilance must be maintained and our own and premises' security ensured," he said.
Vendla noted that participating in missions abroad has a tangible effect on the development of the EDF.
"If we're talking about gear, training and camaraderie in the sense that when we're operating with units that have traditionally been very close with us, and being in battle together with them is actually an investment in the longer term," he said.
The deputy chief of staff believes the EDF service members may deploy to Iraq in May.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla