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Estonia Making Changes to Afghanistan Mission Based on Developments There

30.06.2011

No. 231–E

In the overview of Estonia’s Afghanistan policy that he presented to the government today, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that Estonia will continue to contribute to the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) at the current level. At the same time, Paet said that Estonia will monitor changes in the security situation in Afghanistan and is prepared to change the structure and nature of its participation based on improvements in the security situation and the needs of the operation.

The foreign minister added that transferring the responsibility for security to Afghanistan must happen gradually but irreversibly. “In order for the transfer of security responsibility to be completed in the year 2014, many conditions need to be fulfilled,” said Paet.

“It’s obvious that NATO forces will not stay in Afghanistan forever. A lot has been done and we have reached the point where the army and police there are becoming more and more capable of ensuring security,” Paet noted. “It is the Afghan law enforcement forces that play a key role in this process. They must bear the responsibility and the local residents are relying on them,” he added.

The foreign minister said that Estonian Defence Forces members will remain in Afghanistan for as long as necessary in order to create a situation that allows Afghanistan to accept responsibility for the development and security of its own country without putting other countries at risk. Paet said that there are 165 Estonian Defence Forces members in the ranks of ISAF in Afghanistan right now, in addition to eight police officers in two civil missions – the European Union and NATO missions – as well as a five-member surgical team, a security advisor, and a health care expert.

Afghanistan will remain Estonia’s main development co-operation partner country for the next five years. Paet said that education and the health care sector are of particular importance in Estonia’s development co-operation. “This year Estonia is supporting development co-operation projects in Afghanistan with 600 000 euros. This is a third more than what we allocated last year,” he added.

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