Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Last Friday, August 8, a 40-strong detachment of pioneers drawn from a Bevekom-based Field Accomodation Unit (a Flemish unit) and Amay-based 4th Pioneer Battalion (a Walloon unit) departed for Kandahar in South Afghanistan. They are to prepare accommodation and infrastructure for a wing of four F-16 fighter bombers plus their ground personnel, which will be actively engaged in fighting missions in Afghanistan. Although a 300-600 strong Belgian contingent has been in Afghanistan since 2002, guarding Kabul International Airport (KAIA), and a small demining detachment is active in Kunduz, North Afghanistan, with German forces, the current operation will be the very first fighting mission for Belgium in the WOT... almost seven years after 9/11. In 2006, Belgian F-16 jets were already in Afghanistan but under the then Secretary of Defense André Flahaut anything beyond patrol flights was out of the question. Small as the contribution may be, the current mission marks a sea change compared to the Flahaut era, and that is largely the work of one man, Pieter De Crem, the new SecDef (CD/V, the Flemish Christian Democrats). Indeed, the four F-16 fighter-bombers will be heavily armed and paricipate in ground attacks against Taliban forces. This basically on the request of ISAF troops, but even in the event of an Enduring Freedom operation, the deployment of the fighters is possible.


Currently, our own C-130 transport planes and hired Antonovs are airlifting basic matériel to Kandahar. Material which is too heavy left from the port of Antwerp on board a Karachi-bound containership on August 9. From Karachi, Pakistan, this material will be transported over land to Afghanistan. During the last days of August, the F-16's will fly to Afghanistan, probably refuelling somewhere over the Caspian Sea like in 2006. They should be operational in the first days of September. The operation, dubbed "Guardian Falcon", will last at least six months, but can be prolonged if necessary. The cost of the operation for the rest of 2008 is budgeted at 14.31 million EUR, or some 23 million US$.

It was about time.


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