Estonia is one of the dozens of countries that has deployed troops to Afghanistan to aid the Afghan people and combat terrorism. The Afghanistan mission is one of many such international missions the Estonia Land Forces have undertaken over the years since its establishment in 1991, when Estonia regained its independence from the former Soviet Union and began building its armed forces from virtually nothing. Notable missions have included Operation Iraqi Freedom, from June 2003 to December 2009, the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, from February 2005 to November 2011, as well as missions in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Lebanon and Israel. Missions like these are a major undertaking for a relatively small country. Estonia is slightly smaller in area than the U.S. states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. The country also has a population of approximately 1.28 million people. By comparison, New York City has a population around 8.25 million people.

Estonia has been part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 2003. The first units were explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams and military observation teams around the national capital of Kabul. Following this, Estonian troops were stationed around Mazar-e-Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan. Since 2006, Estonia has contributed an infantry company and a support element to Helmand Province. For the Afghan elections in 2009, Estonia deployed a second infantry company to Helmand Province that operated with U.S. Marines Corps units. During that surge period, the Estonian contingent approached a strength of nearly 300 personnel. Considering that the entire Estonia Land Forces number 3,800, this shows how committed the country has been in supporting the multinational effort. In fact, at that time, Estonia was the largest contributor to the ISAF per capita of any nation.

At present, the usual size of the Estonian contingent is around 165 service members. The largest unit is an infantry company known simply as the Estonian Company, or ESTCOY, operating under the command of Task Force Helmand. In addition, there is an Estonian Special Operations Task Unit operating with elements of U.S. Army Special Forces, a logistical support unit in Camp Bastion and various staff officers. There are also a few medical surgical teams. For many years, the main tasks of the ESTCOY were to hold forward operating bases (FOB) with surrounding checkpoints and provide security for the local Afghan people. In August 2012, ESTCOY handed FOB Wahid over to the Afghan National Army and moved to FOB Pimon, which was in turn handed over to the Afghan National Army in February 2013. Since then, the Estonian Company has been based at Camp Bastion and serves as an operational company, conducting missions all over Task Force Helmand’s area of responsibility.

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Estonia is one of the dozens of countries that has deployed troops to Afghanistan…