For the first time since 2002, Belgian ground troops participated in an operation against the Taliban in Afghanistan's north. Around 50 paratroopers of Tielen-based 3 Para Battalion, the Paracommando Brigade, together with an ANA (Afghan National Army) battalion, cleansed an area of Taliban fighers. The para unit is part of a so-called OMLT team (Operational Mentoring and Liaison), and its principal task is training ANA units. In this operation however the paras patrolled alongside the Afghan soldiers in a war zone. In the week between April 21 and April 28, 50 suspected Taliban fighters were rounded up. Small in scale though this operation is, it is unique in the sense that this is the first time that Belgian troops are getting engaged in ground combat. A small battalion-sized unit has been guarding Kabul airport since 2002, and a demining squad has been active in Kunduz embedded with the Germans there for almost as long, but both missions take place under so many caveats - "thanks" to our former Minister of Defense, André Flahaut, that they cannot be called combat missions. No sooner had the news of this operation leaked out, or the socialist and green opposition lashed out against Belgium "getting sucked into a lost conflict". Check out this video.
You see the socialist Dirk Vander Maelen and the greenie Wouter De Vriendt, both of them scared shitless that taliban terrorists might actually get hurt as a result of Belgian involvement in Afghanistan. Their efforts to grill the current Belgian Defense Minister Pieter De Crem in parliament on the matter proved fruitless however - De Crem nicely warded off whatever objections they made, and angry as they might be, both SP.a and Groen! are in the opposition now. I have been a keen follower of domestic politics since age 16 or so, and I am now 43, and it strikes me what suddenly becomes possible when socialists and greens are out of power. And I'm not only talking defense matters.