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Cablegate: Estonia: Parliament Extends Afghanistan Troop

VZCZCXRO2522
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTL #0367 2971503
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231503Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0876
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0044

UNCLAS TALLINN 000367

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PARM MARR PGOV AF EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIA: PARLIAMENT EXTENDS AFGHANISTAN TROOP
DEPLOYMENT

1. (U) On October 22, the 101-member Estonian
Parliament (Riigikogu) voted to extend the mandate for
the Estonian troop deployment in Afghanistan by 12
months (until December 31, 2009). Estonia troops are
embedded with British units in the Helmand province of
southern Afghanistan. The current mandate (valid
until December 31, 2008) allows Estonia to contribute
as many as 150 defense force members to the ISAF
mission. The new mandate increases the number of
troops authorized to participate in the mission to
170. The bill passed Parliament with a majority of 59
votes in favor and no votes opposing. MPs from two of
the three members of the governing coalition, Reform
Party and Social Democratic party, overwhelmingly
voted in favor of extending the mandate. However,
only half of the members of IRL (the remaining
coalition member and the party of the Minister of
Defense) and 13 members of the primary opposition
Center Party, voted in favor of the bill. Altogether,
30 MPs (primarily members of opposition parties) did
not vote at all. In 2007, the extension of the
Afghanistan mandate passed with 69 votes in favor and
none opposed.

2. (U) Afghanistan is one of Estonia's highest
foreign policy priorities. Estonian troops have
served in southern Afghanistan since 2002. There are
currently 140 Estonian soldiers deployed in Helmand
(the epicenter of Afghanistan's opium production and a
stronghold for the Taliban). The primary unit is a
mechanized infantry company and a mortar platoon.
Estonia began providing development assistance to
Afghanistan in 2002, donating more than USD 336,000
from 2002-2007 with an emphasis on the health sector.
In March 2008, the GOE sent a civilian medical advisor
to Helmand to support the development of a sustainable
healthcare system in the province and to help
coordinate international aid.

PHILLIPS

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