In April, the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) is set to deploy a unit to Iraq as part of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve. The EDF unit will be responsible for base protection, rapid response and providing security for key personnel.
According to an EDF press release, the main part of the unit being deployed to Iraq will consist of members of the Scout Battalion's reduced infantry company ESTCOY-18. They will be accompanied by members of the Estonian Special Operations Forces (ESTSOF), along with a national logistics support element, staff officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs).
According to a Riigikogu mandate, up to 110 members of the Estonian Defense Forces will go to Iraq during in the first rotation, the duration of which, will be approximately six months.
"The participation of our units in foreign operations has made a strong contribution to Estonia's good relations and ability to cooperate with our allies. Contributing to solving problems that concern the whole of Europe and the Western world have shown Estonia to be a professional and credible ally as well as a reliable partner, which is able to help itself and to whom aid and assistance can be provided in times of danger," said Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces General Martin Herem.
"The Allies proposed sending units to Iraq nearly two months ago. Now we are in a situation, where soldiers are completing their training and are ready to be deployed," Herem added.
The EDF contingent will be deployed to the Erbil region of northern Iraq, where they are to be stationed with the International Liaison Force at Erbil air base.
The Estonian unit will take over responsibility from the Dutch company, which has been performing the same tasks up to now. The Erbil base is located adjacent to the city's international airport and hosts more than 4,000 allied troops.
The aim of the operation is to advise and support local security forces until they are able to defeat terrorist group Daesh (ISIS) independently, thus creating conditions for further security cooperation.
The EDF press statement noted, that Islamic extremism remains a threat to security both in Europe and worldwide. "The fight against terrorism is a priority for Estonia's allies the United States, France and the United Kingdom. It is also one of the two major threats to NATO member states, along with Russia."
By participating in the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), Estonia is contributing to the fight against terrorism and other security threats, which affect Europe, NATO member states and Estonia itself. Estonia's participation therefore underlines that it is prepared, along with its allies, to ensure security is maintained, in precisely those locations where security threats exist. In doing so, this also supported Estonia in achieving its security policy objectives, the EDF press statement said.
Estonia decided to join the US-led military coalition in Iraq in the framework of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in 2016. Before now however, the mandate only allowed the deployment of up to five EDF members to the Joint Task Force headquarters
Estonia previously participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from 2003 to 2009 and in NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) from 2005 to 2011, and from 2018 until today.
Estonian Defense Force members have participated in a range of foreign operations for almost 20 years.
Editor: Michael Cole