A group of 101 soldiers will leave for southern Afghanistan to start service in the NATO-led operation on Nov. 19. The largest Estonian unit to be deployed in Afghanistan is the 81-strong motorized infantry company ESTCOY-3, which will relieve the 37 soldiers of the infantry platoon ESTCOY-2, a defense force spokesman said. Another 15-man ordinance disposal team and a 10-man logistics support unit will also depart, bringing the number of Estonian soldiers in Afghanistan to 120. The units will serve in a British battle group that is part of an international brigade under Dutch command and operates in six southern provinces of Afghanistan. The Estonian military has been serving under NATO in Afghanistan since March 2003.
The commander of defense forces, Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts, has been officially relieved of his office by Parliament ahead of his campaign to enter politics. Kouts handed in his resignation in late August after announcing that he intended to stand for election as a member of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is expected to announce Kouts' replacement soon. It is widely speculated that Major General Ants Laaneots, current head of the Estonian Defense College, will fill the office.
The launch of the much-awaited power cable between Estonia and Finland has been delayed after problems were found at the Finnish converter station. The 1.7-billion kroon (109-million euro) Estlink cable, which will connect the Baltics to the Nordic power grid, was expected to be active by the end of the year. However, tests have revealed voltage dips in the Espoo converter station, and further testing has been put on hold as engineers investigate the cable system.
Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks made the first foreign visit of his new term in office on Nov. 9, traveling to Estonia to discuss the need for bilateral agreements on sea and air search and rescue with his counterpart Urmas Paet. The ministers also discussed renovation of the Estonian secondary school in Riga, which has stalled. "We hope the Latvian side will continue talks on the renovation," Paet said. The minister brought up the publication of an Estonian-Latvian dictionary, for which there is "a great need." The two leaders also exchanged thoughts about the upcoming NATO summit in Riga, which, according to Paet, is an "event that has symbolic meaning for the Baltic states."