The Minister of Defence visited members of ESTPLA-28, the Estonian contingent stationed in Mali, in order to get acquainted with the situation on the ground and the work of our servicemen. Minister Luik recognised the Estonian soldiers for their contribution towards ensuring our own security and the security of our allies.
'Countries do not take decisions to send their forces to distant countries lightly, although Operation Barkhane provides the opportunity for Estonia and France to further strengthen their relationship as allies,' said Minister of Defence Jüri Luik. The Minister noted that allied solidarity is very important to Estonia, something that is also being demonstrated by the return of French troops this spring to the composition of the NATO combat group stationed at Tapa.
The commander of the Estonian contingent, Major Kristjan Karist, said that even though they are at times operating under difficult conditions in Gao, all assignments are completed and necessary operational experience is being gained in Mali.
The Minister also met with Colonel Yann de Kermenguy, commander of the Operation Barkhane base in Gao. ‘I was pleased to hear that the command staff of Operation Barkhane, here in Gao, values our activity very highly, and Estonia’s infantry company was recognised as being a professional, dedicated and well-led unit,’ stated Luik.
Estonia has been participating in the French-led Operation Barkhane with 48 servicemen since August of last year. The primary task of our soldiers in Gao is ensuring base security, carrying out patrols within the vicinity of the base and rapid reaction in emergency situations.
Operation Barkhane, which began in 2014 and is taking place in the Sahel Region of Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, and Chad), is France’s biggest international military operation. The goal of the operation is the stabilisation of the region to the degree where local authorities are able to independently ensure security.
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