TALLINN - Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who is currently on a working visit to Afghanistan, on Thursday met with Estonian troops serving in the country and thanked them for their service.
The head of state highlighted at the meeting that Estonia's participation in the mission in Afghanistan has notably strengthened Estonia's allied relations and increased its security, spokespeople for the Office of the President said.
In a statement made after her meeting with the Estonian contingent, the president said that Estonia started the mission in Afghanistan merely 10 years after regaining independence.
"During these two decades, we've also developed as a state to a point where in addition to a capability to contribute to military missions, we also have the skill, capability and preparedness to contribute also at the highest international level diplomatically. We are in the UN Security Council and during the present pivotal moments for this mission, we are also a penholder for Afghanistan at the world's most complex diplomatic table. Afghanistan is important to us and we're contributing to it in a variety of ways," Kaljulaid said.
The president said that the Estonian troops who are currently in Afghanistan will be the last Estonian unit to serve there.
"Every day that members of the Estonian defense forces are on a mission here makes Estonia securer and better. It also does the same for the entire world. No day that our defense personnel and before them our rescuers and mine-clearance personnel have served here has been in vain," she said.
"We've paid a high price. Nine fallen, 39 severely injured and altogether over 100 injured. This pain will forever remain in our society and among our veterans," the president said. "This debt of gratitude will always remain, and I would like to express my deepest respect to everyone taking part in missions."
"Estonia did not come to Afghanistan two decades ago to promote its own agenda. We came here to stand side by side with our today's allies," Kaljulaid said. "It was a values-based decision. We came here because we believe in democracy and human rights, we believe in women's and children's rights to participate in society and receive education, we believe in a nation's right to live without terror. We came here because we believe in freedom."
The president acknowledged that not every goal set together with the allies has been met.
"We'll likely see some regression here after the departure of the allies, but it only means that we must make all the more of an effort to keep the concerns and hopefully also the joys of Afghanistan and the Afghan people on the radar of international democracy and human rights," she said.
Kaljulaid began a working visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday to meet with the Estonian troops serving in the country, leaders of Afghanistan and those of NATO and UN missions as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations.