Estonia and Afghanistan
In the first few years of the Estonian Republic, contacts between Estonia and Afghanistan did not exist. However, Afghanistan’s expansion of foreign ties in the 1920s and 30s reached all the way to Estonia. The first diplomatic contact between Estonia and Afghanistan took place on the level of their London embassies in 1923; these contacts did not develop past the level of courtesy visits. In 1930, however, an outlook for deepening ties developed. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Moscow, Sardar Mohammed Aziz (brother of King Mohammed Nadir-Shah), agreed with Estonian Ambassador Julius Seljamaa’s proposal that the two nations conclude a friendship agreement between them that could be the basis for further relations. The Estonian government hoped to find a market for Estonian goods in Afghanistan. Afghanistan had already signed analogous agreement with Finland and Latvia.
When the agreement project, which was modelled after the Afghanistan-Latvia friendship agreement of 1928, was approved, it was signed on 6 December 1930 in Tallinn (Foreign Minister J. Lattik and Ambassador Mohammed Aziz). The agreement was short and established inviolable peace and a serious and lasting friendship between both countries, and also foresaw the possibility of establishing diplomatic and consular relations as well as holding negotiations in trade matters. The agreement came into force in April 1931.
They never got to have trade negotiations, although trading did begin between Estonia and Afghanistan in 1932. Trading did not reach any remarkable level—in some years Estonia was able to export some paper and a small number of telephones to Afghanistan. Estonian imports from Afghanistan were trivial, consisting of a few chance purchases (rugs, furs).
Afghanistan recognised Estonia’s re-independence on 7 September 1991. Diplomatic ties were not established again between Estonia and Afghanistan until 1 July 2005.
In September 2006 Estonia sent its first civil expert and diplomat to the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) located in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province. His task was to participate in the work of the PRT and fulfil the role of Estonia’s diplomatic representative in Afghanistan. As of the fall of 2007 Estonia has a special diplomatic mission in Kabul. Since July of 2011, the Estonian charge d’affaires in Afghanistan is Vahur Soosaar, who writes regularly about his activities there in his blog (http://blog.vm.ee/). From March 2008 until July 2012, Estonia sent a health care expert to Afghanistan to consult for the British PRT leaders and the Helmand provincial government about the development of the health care system.
As of August 2011 there are four Estonian police officers serving in the European Union police mission EUPOL Afghanistan. Estonia will also continue contributing four police officers to the NATO training mission (NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, NTM-A).
Estonia’s current ambassador to Afghanistan Väino Reinart presented his credentials to President Hamid Karzai on 3 April 2012 . Ambassador Väino Reinart has been Estonia’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan since August 2011. The previous ambassador to Afghanistan, who also served simultaneously as the special representative, was Harri Tiido.
To date Afghanistan has no diplomatic representation in Estonia.
Estonian representatives in Afghanistan:
Toomas Kahur, September 2006 – June 2007
Andres Kolk, June 2007 – June 2008
Daniel Erik Schaer, July 2008 – July 2009
Tanel Sepp, August 2009 – July 2011
Vahur Soosaar, July 2011 –
In July 2009, the Estonian government passed a decision updating Estonia's Afghanistan Strategy, which specifies the principles of Estonia’s Afghanistan policy and its course of action for the next few years.
- December 2006, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip. The delegation included head of the Defence Forces General Ants Laaneots. Meetings were held with the president, the speaker of the lower house of the Parliament, and ministers.
- August 2007, Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo. He had meetings with the Afghan minister of defence and the leadership of the ISAF.
- January 2008, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. He had meetings with the president, foreign minister, secretary general of the lower house of Parliament, and the ISAF commander.
- February 2008, Afghan Minister of Defence Abdul Rahim Wardak’s visit to Estonia. Meetings took place with Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.
- In April 2008 Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo visited Afghanistan. Within the framework of his visit, meetings were held with Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and the key figures of various Afghan and international forces.
- In November of 2008, Estonian Defence Minister Jaak Aaviksoo visited Afghanistan. Meetings were held with ISAF leadership.
- In March 2009 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet visited Afghanistan. He had meetings with the foreign minister, chairman of the lower house of Parliament, European Union special representatives in Afghanistan, and NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan.
- In April 2010 Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul attended the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn. He had bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.
- In May 2010 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Chief of the General Staff of the Defence Forces Neeme Väli visited Afghanistan. They had meetings with President Karzai, Parliament Speaker Muhammad Yunus Quanon, and representatives of the UN, NATO/ISAF, and the EU.
- In October 2010 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves made a working visit to Afghanistan. In Kabul, President Ilves had meetings with President Hamid Karzai, Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, and representatives of the UN, NATO/ISAF, and the EU. President Ilves also visited Estonian Defence Force members serving in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan and participated in the opening of a monument to fallen Estonian troops at the Cap Bastion military base.
- In January 2011 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet visited Afghanistan; he had meetings with Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul and representatives of the UN, NATO/ISAF, and the EU. The foreign minister went to Helmand Province to visit Estonian Defence Forces members, the PRT, and Governor Gulab Mangal.
- In June 2011 Minister of Defence Mart Laar visited Afghanistan; the defence minister was accompanied by Chief of Staff Riho Terras. In addition to meetings with representatives of the government and international representatives, the defence minister also visited Estonian Defence Forces members in Helmand.
- In July 2012 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip was on an official visit to Afghanistan together with Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron. Within the framework of the visit he met with President Hamid Karzai and visited Camp Bastion. He also met with the Estonian soldiers serving at Patrol Base Wahid, British battalion head Mick Aston, US Commander Regional Command Southwest Major-General C. M. Gurganus, and Helmand forces head Brigadier-General Doug Chalmers.
- In September 2012, Minister of Defence Urmas Reinsalu was in Afghanistan, where he met with US Commander Regional Command Southwest Major-General C. M. Gurganus and Helmand forces head Brigadier-General Doug Chalmers. Reinsalu also became acquainted with the work and service conditions of the Estonian military logisticians working at Camp bastion and visited the Role-3 military hospital, where Estonian surgeons have served many times.
- From 12-15 March 2013 Commander of the Defence Forces Major General Riho Terras visited Kabul and met with Commander of ISAF General Joseph Dunford, NATO Senior Civilian Representative Maurits Jochems, Ambassador of the USA James Cunningham, and the vice-head of the UK embassy. Terras also met with Estonian soldiers in Helmand Province.
- From 3-4 April 2013 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet was in Afghanistan for a visit. He met with Foreign Minister Rassoul as well as Commanding General of Regional Command (SW) General Walter Miller, Brigadier General Bob Bruce, and director the Provincial Reconstruction Team Catriona Laing. Foreign Minister Paet also met with Estonian soldiers.
- From 22-25 April 2013, Minister of the Interior Ken-Marti Vaher visited Afghanistan, where he met with Estonian police officers participating in the EU and NATO missions and became acquainted with measure being taken to fight narcotics.
- From 29-30 April 2013 President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai was on a state visit to Estonia. He met with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, and Speaker of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma. Afghan Foreign Minister Z. Rassoul accompanied President Karzai and met with Foreign Minister Paet within the framework of the visit.
Economic contacts between the countries thus far have been modest. Due to security risks, civilian trade has become marginal. Estonian investments in Afghanistan are virtually non-existent.
Since 2002, Estonia has contributed as much as it can to the socio-economic development of Afghanistan through various international aid organisations (humanitarian aid and trust funds) and through bilateral projects. Since 2006, Afghanistan has been one of Estonia’s four bilateral development co-operation partner countries. Most of our development co-operation has been focused on education, the well-being of women and children, and the advancement of democracy and good administrative practices.
At the end of 2006 we began focusing more on the health care sector. In 2008, Estonia’s special mission was joined by a health care expert, whose responsibilities include co-ordinating Estonian and international development co-operation projects in the British-led Lashkar Gah Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and consulting with Helmand’s provincial government about developing the health care system. Argo Parts, Anu Raisma, Priit Paju, and Siim Nemvalts have all served as the health care expert.
On 5 December 2011 the International Afghanistan Conference took place in Bonn, where the focus was on support for Afghanistan for the period 2015-2024. Like many other countries (there were 85 present at the conference), the Estonian delegation led by Foreign Minister Urmas Paet announced Estonia’s readiness to give long-term support to Afghanistan (currently Afghanistan is designated one of Estonia’s development co-operation priority countries until 2015).
View the list of development co-operation projects carried out by Estonia and Estonia’s contributions to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Estonian units have been active in Afghanistan within the framework of NATO since 13 March 2003, when a six-member mine-clearing squad joined the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Their responsibility, as part of an international brigade, was to clear the area around Kabul of leftover explosives. In July 2005 the mine-clearing team headed to the PRT of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, where a military observation team was also beginning to serve. From July 2002 to June 2005, special mine-clearing experts and bomb-sniffing dogs from the rescue board participated in the anti-terrorism operation Enduring Freedom. Their last mission took place in the beginning of 2005, when the five-member team plus two dogs served at the Bagram air base near Kabul.
When the units from Great Britain headed to Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan in February 2006, the Estonian units also began working there. Due to the different security situation and tasks, the independent mine-clearing team was replaced by combat engineers from the infantry company unit. The military observation team also ended its work.
At the moment there are about 170 Defence Forces members serving in Afghanistan. The infantry unit, strengthened by Estonia’s trench mortar team in Helmand, is a manoeuvre team with considerable strength that carries out battle operations, along with British, American and Afghan units, against insurgent armed groups in the areas, particularly the Taliban. Also located in Helmand is Estonia’s support centre, which takes care of logistical services and technical repairs for the contingent.
Estonia has supported the development of the Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF) by funding the Afghan army’s trust fund and sending experts on police missions. In June 2012 an Estonian advisor worked in the Afghan Ministry of Defence (institutional development). Estonia is prepared to support the financing of the ANSF after 2014 with up to 500 000 USD over three years starting in 2015.
This information sheet was compiled in co-operation with the Ministry of Defence.
Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry
Afghanistan National Development Strategy - ANDS
UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan - UNAMA
The EU's relations with Afghanistan
Helmand Province Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)
NATO Training Mission