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At the charity dinner of the Carolin Illenzeer Fund 

Esteemed ministers and Chief of Defence, veterans, ladies and gentlemen,

Two weeks ago, the last Estonian flag still flying in Afghanistan was lowered at Kabul International Airport. The last Estonian military policemen and medics arrived home in time for Victory Day. This marked the end of a mission that had lasted for almost two decades; one which had a lasting and at times devastating impact on thousands of Estonian soldiers and their loved ones.

Their mission came to an end, but the wounds they brought back from Afghanistan, both visible and invisible, will be with them and many people in Estonia for decades to come. This was not merely the Afghans’ war, or the Americans’ war, or our allies’ war. It was also Estonia’s war; the longest in our modern history.

We have not left behind the Afghanistan we were hoping to see when we launched the mission 20 years ago. We must be honest with ourselves: the international community today has no cast-iron guarantees that the country will become a stable and peaceful place that is able to cope on its own. It was with these same conflicting feelings that I saw off a unit of the Estonian Defence League on their way to Baghdad in May, to serve on a mission that was originally launched for much the same reasons as the mission in Afghanistan. A mission which proved fateful to Master Sergeant Arre Illenzeer. A mission which we have already once declared ended, around 10 years ago. Our responsibility before the thousands of Estonians who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq behoves us, here and now, to give a clear answer to the question: Where those missions worthwhile? Was what was gained from it worth the losses? We have to be able to both ask questions and answer them, especially in the knowledge that we are constantly making new decisions about where to raise the Estonian flag.

Losses are always irreplaceable. What you have gained is often difficult to comprehend. Weighing things up is impossible. There is only one way of seeing how those weights can be balanced: that is through the eyes of a soldier, whose job it is to protect their country and its people.

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