The Estonian infantry unit to begin serving on the French-led anti-terrorist Operation Barkhane is to deploy to Mali next month.
While the plan in the spring was to deploy to Mali within the first week of July, the deployment has since been postponed until August, and according to the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), the exact date of their deployment has not yet been set. A preliminary unit has already arrived in Mali, however.
Estonia is to send an infantry unit of up to 50 active service military personnel to Mali for a year, where it will join the French-led Operation Barkhane.
The unit consists of 36 infantry personnel, as well as translators, combat engineers and a six-member support element. The unit will use Pasi XA-188 armoured personnel carriers, five of which will be sent to Mali by the EDF.
The Estonian unit will operate out of a military base located near the city of Gao in Central Mali. The Estonian contingent will be tasked with protecting the base and carrying out patrols in Gao, but they must also be ready to fulfil tasks requiring rapid responses.
Estonia will send the infantry unit to Mali for a year, for altogether three rotations, each with a duration of four months.
France's Minister of Defence in January proposed to Estonia that the latter participate in France's largest international mission. The Estonian government approved the proposal on 2 April.
Launched in 2014, Operation Barkhane is a French-led operation in the Sahel region of Africa aimed at creating stability and controlling problems which Europe is facing from that region, such as terrorism and illegal migration. The operation, which involves some 3,000 French troops, is headquartered in N'Djamena, the capital and largest city of Chad. The operation encompasses Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.
Estonia was one of the first partner nations invited by France to participate in Operation Barkhane. The U.K. is also to join the operation.
Estonia at present has four instructors and staff officers deployed to the EU training mission EUTM-Mali in Mali, as well as three staff officers deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in that country.
In 2014, a 50-strong Estonian infantry platoon took part in an EU stabilization mission in the Central African Republic mainly manned by France.
Last year, a French armored unit of 300 personnel armed with infantry fighting vehicles and tanks spent a rotation at Tapa, Estonia as part of the NATO battle group stationed there. France has announced that it will send a similar unit here in 2019.
Editor: Aili Vahtla