During his visit to Iraq, Minister of Defence Kalle Laanet met with members of the National Defence League unit serving as part of NATO Mission Iraq, Iraqi President Barham Salih, and representatives from the Ministry of the Interior and Defence.
During his meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih, the issues of security in the region were discussed, along with the contribution of the Allies to ensuring the security of Iraq. President Salih thanked Minister Laanet for Estonia’s contribution to the missions in Iraq and emphasised the importance of international co-operation in the fight against terrorism.
The situation unfolding along the borders of Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia was discussed at the meeting with the President and also during other meetings. The Minister of Defence thanked the Iraqi representatives for the suspension of flights to Belarus and emphasised that the continuation of the suspension was necessary so that even more Iraqis would not fall victim to human trafficking.
‘President Salih and the representatives of the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior realised that the given situation, in which the Iraqi people are being used to carry out a hybrid attack, has arisen as a result of the connivance of the Belarusian regime and, in the end, it is their fellow countrymen who are suffering,’ said Minister of Defence Kalle Laanet.
Representatives of the Iraqi government highlighted Estonia’s cyber-related experience, in which Estonia’s help in rebuilding the country is being sought.
The situation in Afghanistan was also discussed with Iraq and mission representatives, and it was acknowledged that the situation is critical and having an impact on the security of the wider region.
In Baghdad, Minister Laanet and Commander of the Defence League Brigadier General Riho met with National Defence League unit members and the staff officer serving as part of NATO Mission Iraq and the staff officer serving as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Meetings were also held with the command of both missions to discuss the security situation in the region and the tasks of the missions.
‘The Defence League unit is performing its tasks as part of the NATO advisory and training mission in a highly professional manner, and the deputy commander of the mission recognized Estonian volunteers who are on equal footing with professional members of the Defence Forces,’ the Minister of Defence emphasised.
During the visit, the Minister of Defence also met with Major General Christoph Buik, Head of Mission of the European Advisory Mission in Iraq (EUAM Iraq), with whom he discussed the reform of Iraq’s security and internal defence forces. Estonia is contributing one person to the mission.
At the invitation of Denmark, Estonia is providing a one-time contribution to NATO Mission Iraq with a force protection unit comprised of members of the Defence League. The unit is tasked with providing force protection for and securing the NATO Training Mission in Baghdad. Service will last from June to December 2021. NATO Mission Iraq advises and supports the Iraqi Security Forces, so that the Iraqi Army, police and ministries would be able to defend their own country. NATO established the mission in October 2018. The last time a National Defence League unit participated in a foreign mission was in 2010.
Operation Inherent Resolve is a US-led international military operation against Daesh, having launched in 2014. Estonia is contributing one staff officer to the operation.
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