Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) infantry platoon ESPLA-26, which deployed from Estonia early Monday morning, entered service under the French-led anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane this week.
Upon meeting with the arriving unit, Col. Jean de Monicault, commander of the Gao military base, pinned the badge of the French Foreign Legion to the shoulder of Maj. Kristjan Karist, head of the Estonian contingent, emphasising a close bond between the two respective forces, the Headquarters of the EDF said in a press release on Friday.
“There are people of many different nationalities serving in the Foreign Legion, so I know that the Estonians will assimilate into our routines quickly,” Monicault said.
The primary objective of the Estonian contingent is to achieve combat readiness in order to fulfil the duties assigned to it. In order to settle into the local environment and conditions as smoothly as possible, the Estonian troops are working closely together with French soldiers.
Estonian and French soldiers will jointly man checkpoints and patrol the vicinity of the military base. ESTPLA-26 is expected to achieve full combat readiness later this month.
This spring, the Riigikogu gave a mandate to the EDF to deploy a platoon-sized infantry unit to Mali to support the French-led Operation Barkhane, which is aimed at supporting and combating extremism, illegal migration and human trafficking in five countries in the Sahel region of Africa — Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.