The Estonian Defence Forces in Afghanistan – in pictures

From 2003-2014, Estonia participated in Afghanistan under the NATO mission, International Security Assistance Force; this selection of pictures tells a little story of the Estonian soldiers in Afghanistan.*

The Estonian Defence Forces were active in Afghanistan since 2003, serving along the British forces in the restless Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The first contingent to serve in Afghanistan was the mine clearance group.

The Estonian contingent, which normally consisted of about 150 professional soldiers, comprised of an infantry company (ESTCOY), national logistics assistance element, military police close protection unit and staff officers. Nine Estonian soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan and 102 were injured, 25 of them seriously.

The contingent was regularly rotated, but as the Western allies, operating under the NATO umbrella, were about to withdraw from Afghanistan completely, the last Estonian contingent, ESTCOY-17, came back home in May 2014. However, a small number of Estonian military personnel remained in the country until June 2021.

After the Western allies withdrew from Afghanistan, security responsibility was handed over to local security forces, but the Islamist movement, the Taliban, recaptured the whole Afghanistan swiftly by 15 August 2021.

This selection of pictures tells a little story of Estonia’s international soldiers in Afghanistan from 2003-2014.

Estcoy 16 in 2013 Photo by Captain Arvo Jõesalu
ESTCOY-16 soldiers and a Royal Air Force’s Chinook in 2013. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Captain Arvo Jõesalu Estcoy 16 2013
A RAF Chinook taking off, after dropping ESTCOY-16 soldiers in 2013. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by captain Arvo Jõesalu
Estonian soldiers at Camp Bastion. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by lieautenaint Kristel Maasikmets
Ready for operations. Photo by Kristel Maasikmets.
2011 I
Finding a common ground with the locals, in 2011.
2011
Estonian female soldier and the local kids in 2011.
2011 IV
Estonian soldiers patrolling in 2011.
Estcoy 16 in 2013 Photo by Captain Arvo Jõesalu 16
ESTCOY-16 soldier on patrol in 2013. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Estcoy 16 in 2013 Photo by Captain Arvo Jõesalu 15
ESTCOY-16 sniper in 2013. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photographer - Sgt Steve Blake RLC 2011
Estonian solider in 2011. Photo by Sgt Steve Blake RLC (British Army).
Estcoy 16 in 2013 Photo by Captain Arvo Jõesalu 14
A moment to breath and reflect. ESTCOY-16 soldiers in 2013. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by Arvo Jõesalu VI Estcoy 9 2010
ESTCOY-9 soldiers in 2010. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
MRAP tower on a market day 2012 photo by lieutenant Arvo Jõesalu
An Estonian soldier keeps a watchful eye on the local market from a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle in 2012. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by lieutenant Arvo Jõesalu I
Estonian MRAP vehicle patrolling a local market in 2012. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by major Hannes Võrno I
Celebrating Christmas. Photo by Hannes Võrno.
Estonian sauna in Helmand
Estonians cannot live without a sauna; this one, at Camp Bastion, was specially converted for Estonian soldiers, from an old sea container.
Photo by Arvo Jõesalu
How far is the home? Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
A local dog wearing a blue-black-and-white collar. Domesticated by British soldiers 2011
A local dog, domesticated by British soldiers, wearing a blue, black, and white collar – the tricolour of Estonia.
Photo by captain Arvo Jõesalu XI
Nightwatch. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by captain Arvo Jõesalu XII
Mingling with the locals. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by Arvo Jõesalu VI
Checkpoint. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by lieutenant Kristel Maasikmets V 2012
Communication with the locals is crucial. Photo by Kristel Maasikmets, 2012.
Photo by lieutenant Kristel Maasikmets VIII 2012
Patrolling. Photo by Kristel Maasikmets, 2012.
Photo by Arvo Jõesalu II
Patrolling. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Photo by major Hannes Võrno
Reading letters from home. Photo by Hannes Võrno.
Remembering the fallen comrades on Victory Day 23 June 2013 by Arvo Jõesalu
Remembering the fallen on Estonian Victory Day, in 23 June 2013. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.
Remembering the fallen comrades
Remembering the fallen. Nine Estonian soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan.
Photo by lieutenant Kristel Maasikmets II 2012
ESTCOY-14 soldiers in 2012. Photo by Kristel Maasikmets.
Arvo Jõesalu
Embarking on a Chinook at sunset. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.

* This article was originally published on 13 April 2014, lightly edited on 16 August 2021.

All photos courtesy of The Estonian Defence Forces, except where otherwise stated. Cover photo: ESTCOY-16 soldiers departing from a RAF Chinook in 2013. Photo by Arvo Jõesalu.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Estonian World is in a dire need of your support.
Read our appeal here and become a supporter on Patreon 
close-image
Scroll to Top