Sunday, December 14, 2008


Oh the irony! At the moment the USA seems to make a sharp leftward bend, Belgium more or less emerges from the stagnation of eight years of leftist rule. A simple scene like below could never have happened even one year ago:

I don't blame nobody for not understanding Dutch/Flemish, a language spoken by, give and take, 23 million people worldwide (without counting Afrikaans). Here's what's being said in that video:

(voice of news anchor): Groen! [the Flemish greens - MFBB] and SP.a [the Flemish socialists - MFBB] doubt whether the army has the financial clout to send more troops to Afghanistan and claim that NATO is "doing things the wrong way there".

Wouter De Vriendt (MP, Flemish greens): "I think that the Leterme governmnet is making a clear ideological choice here, an idelogical choice whereby one follows the American war logic."

Dirk Van Der Maelen (MP, Flemish Socialists): "This minister, followed by this government, is dragging our country into a hopeless and illegal war in Afghanistan."

[Reply by] Pieter De Crem (Belgian Minister of Defense, Christian Democrats): "You are, Mr. Van Der Maelen, completely isolated. You find yourself in the camp of Osama Bin Laden and his friends bomblayers and rapists. You are an objective partner of the bomblayers and of those who cut off the ears of girls when they attend school."

So what we have here is a November 5, 2008 meeting in the House Committee for Defense whereby the Belgian Minister of Defense, Pieter de Crem (Christian Democrats), has to field questions by the opposition, mainly the Flemish greens (Groen!) and the Flemish socialists. De Crem is the man who, immediately upon formation of the Leterme government in Spring 2008, took the necessary steps to send at least a token contribution to the real fight in Afghanistan. While it is true that on average some 300 Belgian troops have been guarding Kabul International Airport (KAIA) since 2002 (and been doing a fairly good job of it), it is also commonly known throughout NATO that this assignment is one of the safest in the whole country. f16gbu12Apart from that, for several years now a small demining detachment is active in the north around Kunduz, embedded with German troops. While both assignments are not completely without risk it is clear that the Belgian ISAF committment is a far cry from the active involvement in combat operations by, e.g., the Dutch. The most visible change since De Crem took the helm at Defense is that since mid-September, four F-16 MLU5 fighter bombers are actively participating in CAS (Close Air Support) operations, together with Dutch and French planes, from the southern Kandahar Airport. According to the Belgian Air Force website, on average every other day the missions involve bombing and strafing of Taliban positions. As small as this contribution may be, given the political climate in Belgium this is something of a small miracle. It's not that the will to fight has left the military itself - in early September, possibly encouraged by now having a normal Secdef after eight catastrophic years under the Walloon socialist André Flahaut, Major General Testelmans, Chief of the Belgian Ground Forces, hinted that the Army could do more than humanitarian operations and even stated that Belgian troops were ready for the fight in Afghanistan's south. He, and his Minister, were immediately treated like reckless anachronistic Rambos on steroids not only by the opposition but even by some MP's from the Liberal Party. A case like this shows once again how difficult it has become to project a credible defense in European countries. Leftist and center-left politicians have evolved into actual adversaries of the military - a very dangerous development and one which is actually completely in line with their policy of weakening our states from within. In Germany, the greens objected to the sending of a mere six Tornado fighter bombers to AF on the grounds that... they would unnecessarily contribute to the greenhouse effect (I kid you not). In Spain, the socialist Minister of Defense, Carmen Chacon, has more or less vowed that she wants to strip the Spanish Armed Forces of every armed component (again, I kid you not). How else would you explain her quote: "I am a pacifist, as are the armies of the 21st Century." At the same time however, Madama Pacifist is not shy of signing huge arms contracts with Hugo Chavez. Logic and leftism, the two don't go together. As for Sweden, at the time of this writing it seems that the Swedish military has been more or less castrated and would now number around... 20,000.


An interesting photo. Belgian groundcrew tend to an F-16 on Kandahar Airport. Clearly visible is the brand new sniper pod, the successor to the LANTIRN, offering such razorsharp images that the risk of confusing Taliban with ordinary afghans citizens is greatly reduced.

Recent data and pics of the Belgian fighter bombers in Kandahar are hard to come by, especially news of operations. I highly suspect that the MoD has ordered a complete radio silence, since, socialists being what they are, the news of a Taliban terrorist with a broken toenail as a result of a confrontation with the Belgian Air Force might provoke such spasms among our moral betters that they might get in a position to force the redeployment of our F-16's to, say, the Ursel airstrip near Bruges. So Minister De Crem is probably being just wise. Which means that, to get some idea of Belgium's very first real involvement in the WOIT after more than seven years, I have to make do with this short 2006 video, taken during the F-16's first stint in AF, during which they were limited to recce missions. Either way, the crews and ground personnel are competent, and the planes, although old, have been kept up to date. I'm pretty sure they're pulling off a good job. Better late than never. Hat tip for the video of the meeting Luc Van Braekel.