Monday, November 14, 2005


Arrival at KabulThe Belgian ISAF detachment responsible for security at Kabul International Airport (KAIA), composed of soldiers drawn from the 1st Regiment Jagers te Paard (a recce unit) and the 12th/13th Line Regiment Prince Leopold (an infantry unit) has taken in fresh troops from the 1st Regiment Chasseurs Ardennais, an infantry unit with a long tradition going back to 1830. It is a fine unit, for 103 years known as the 10th Line Regiment, and renamed the Régiment de Chasseurs Ardennais on March 10, 1933. Common non-combat headgear is a large green beret with a golden wild boar head insignia, the wild boar being a typical Ardennes animal. At the outbreak of WWII, the regiment served as the nucleus for two divisions of Chasseurs Ardennais, which distinguished themselves admirably during May 1940, notably at Vinkt during the four-day battle (May 25-May 28) along the Leie River (Lys in English).

On patrolThe first photo shows the arrival on KAIA of some platoons of Chasseurs Ardennais on or around October 29. The second one shows a patrol of Pandur APCs in or near Kabul. As you can see, the streets don’t exactly look kosher. It is also looking rather cold and wet, a reminder that the severe Afghan winter is coming. The Belgian detachment has not suffered casualties yet despite being in Afghanistan since March 2003 – Kabul is relatively calm and far away from the hotspots in the southwest where the US Army is operating. Nevertheless the area is not entirely free from danger. Today the Afghan government let know that in Kabul two German ISAF soldiers were killed and three wounded by a suicide bomber. There seems to be some confusion, since the BBC says one German soldier was killed.

Btw, say what you will about the Germans, but in Afghanistan, esepcially in the northwest, where most are deployed, they certainly make a difference. Recently, on 28 September, the Bundestag decided to enhance the German strength from 2,500 to 3,000. There’s all kinds of troops, but the infantry component is mainly made up of Fallschirmjaeger (paratroops) and Gebirgsjaeger (mountain troops). The Germans did pay a price already - if I’m not mistaken they unfortunately lost some 20 KIA till now.

As for the Belgian F-16 section on KAIA, together with four Dutch F-16s providing air support for ISAF ground troops, here too has there been a change of the guard since the fighter-bombers, mainly F-16AM’s, are now manned by crews from the 10th Tactical Wing from Kleine Brogel AFB, province of Limburg. Until now the crews were from 2nd TW at Florennes, province of Namur. The recently taken photo shows two planes ready for takeoff, equipped with the standard armament of two AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles and two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs. Plus the 500-round 20mm Vulcan cannon of course. Until now, the crews have had a fairly uneventful stay in AF, mostly doing their regular patrol flights. AFAIK, only once, on October 5, did a Dutch Marines detachment (the Dutch have about 800 ground troops in Afghanistan) call for air support and then they only asked for "scare" flights at very low level to chase some suspicious looking gunmen away. Interesting to note is that the four Dutch F-16s can be called upon by the US within the framework of Operation Enduring Freedom, while the Belgian planes are supposed to be working only within the ISAF framework. A political decision of course. Typical.

As for the Afghan election results, only now the final outcome, after much recounting and investigations into voter fraud, has been publicized. Not surprisingly, the result looks like a kaleidoscope of tall-standing charismatic public figures, quite a few of them former (?) warlords, rather than a clear-cut division into political groups. What is clear though is that President Karzai is still widely regarded as an acceptable leader for all the different factions, enjoying more than 50% support among the 249-member Lower House or Wolesi Jirga. It is obvious that tribal and ethnic divides rather than party programmes are defining Afghanistans political arena, since the large support is explained rather by the ethnic dominant group in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns, to which Karzai belongs. The Pashtuns are also likely to dominate the 102-seat upper house or Meshrano Jirga when that is formed. A very positive development is that 68 of the 249 seats went to women, all in all an astounding feat in a country where they are still too often regarded as worth only half a man, if they are lucky.


N.B.: all photos from the Belgian Armed Forces website