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Estonian troops may go to Afghanistan, not Iraq

RIA Novosti

09/02/2009 16:55 TALLINN, February 9 (RIA Novosti) - An Estonian peacekeeping unit that has been preparing for deployment to Iraq could be sent to Afghanistan instead, Estonia's defense minister said Monday.

Jaak Aaviksoo, who on Sunday officially wound up the Estonian military's mission in Iraq during a trip to the country, said the decision to dispatch the soldiers to Afghanistan had not yet been made, but that talks were underway.

"We are discussing the possibility of continuing the mission in Afghanistan, which is becoming the next hotspot for the international community. It will be harder to succeed there than in Iraq. No specific decision has been made yet, but I think a conclusion will be reached before the onset of summer," Aaviksoo told Estonian television on Monday.

Estonia's government decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq because the Baltic state had not received an official request from the Iraqi government for the mission to continue.

An Estonian 34-soldier infantry platoon returned home from Iraq in December 2008. Estonian servicemen have been involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom since June 2003. Two Estonian soldiers have died and 18 have been wounded in the country.

Since 2003, Estonian soldiers have been in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The country's military has seen three deaths and about 30 servicemen wounded during its participation in NATO operations in Afghanistan.

 



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