Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) is in Afghanistan this week, on a visit focusing on Estonian military missions in that country, as well as Afghanistan's own development.
Meeting with Afghanistan president, Ashraf Ghanī, in Kabul on Monday, Ratas reaffirmed Estonia's continued support to ensure the stability and security of Afghanistan, in so doing improving quality of life for its citizens, according to a government press release.
Ratas also noted how Estonia is to contribute to the security and stability of the region, by participating in NATO's largest operation.
"Our defense forces members, together with our allies in Afghanistan, are helping to create a safer living environment for people to live in peace, without having to abandon their homes. This is also a contribution to our own security as well as that of Europe," the prime minister said.
The two leaders also talked about Afghanistan's peace process and the recent presidential elections in late September. The Estonian prime minister considered it vital that Afghanistan managed to secure the presidential election, which allowed it to cast its vote for the country's future.
"All efforts to bring about peace and reconciliation are essential. All actors must be involved in this process in order to develop a sense of responsibility. In the end, peace negotiations are the only way to achieve lasting peace," Ratas said.
"Unfortunately, many people in Afghanistan have lived their entire lives in a state of war and have never seen peace. However, despite the complicated security situation, access to health care has improved and child mortality has fallen. The number of children, including girls, receiving general education has increased almost nine-fold, and the number of schools nearly five times," Ratas continued.
Afghanistan has long been a priority partner country for the military, civilian and development cooperation of the Estonian state, Ratas also said.
"In its development cooperation, Estonia has paid special attention to education, improving the lot of women and children and increasing IT capabilities, especially in the fields of higher education in the field of technology and digital identity. We have focused on the needs of local people, and will continue to assist Afghanistan in the future," he added.
The prime minister is accompanied on his trip by head of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) Maj. Gen. Martin Herem. The pair also met U.S. Gen. Austin S. Miller, Commander of the NATO Training and Consultation Mission, and Sir Nicholas Kay, NATO's senior Civilian Representative, in Kabul.
On Tuesday, they are set to attend an acquaint focused on the work and activities of EDF personnel participating in the military operation in Afghanistan. A meeting with the Kabul Security Force and the leadership of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is also scheduled for Tuesday, according to a government press release.
NATO forces have been operating in Afghanistan as part of a support and training mission from 2015. More than 17,000 defense personnel from 39 NATO Allies and partner nations currently participate in the mission, which aims to train and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions, thereby contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and strengthening stability in the region.
Forty-two EDF personnel plus one Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) representatives are currently serving in NATO's Afghanistan mission, predominantly in the capital, Kabul, with a four-member mine clearance team stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan.
Estonia has supported Afghanistan in development cooperation, to the tune of €11.3 million since 2009.
Ashraf Ghanī was elected President of Afghanistan in 2014.
Editor: Andrew Whyte