No big increase in troops for Afghan mission
9 December 2005
BRUSSELS — Swiftly putting an end to speculation in recent days, the Defence Ministry has said Belgium does not plan to significantly increase the number of its troops serving with the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.
The spokesman for Defence Minister André Flahaut said the ministry simply does not have sufficient funding to afford a larger contribution to the NATO-led ISAF stabilisation force.
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt informed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday that Belgium was considering to send additional troops to Afghanistan.
However, the Liberal VLD leader has come against the budgetary restraints of Socialist PS Minister Flahaut, whose spokesman said there was no talk of sending more troops to Afghanistan while Belgian soldiers are still serving in Kosovo.
Belgium currently has 220 soldiers serving with KFOR peacekeeping force in the Balkans, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Friday.
Nato foreign ministers approved an expansion of the NATO mission to the southern part of Afghanistan on Thursday. By the spring of 2006, the aim is that NATO is in control of two-thirds of the Central Asian nation.
However, NATO will need additional troops. This prompted the efforts of Rice to convince member states to supply more personnel to the mission.
Belgium is considering reinforcing the 40 soldiers currently serving with a provincial reconstruction team under German leadership in Kunduz. However, that will be less than 100 soldiers.
Currently, Belgium also has 320 soldiers and four F-16 fighter jets stationed around the Kabul international airport. The government is considering increasing the number of F-16s or C130 transport planes.
There were 630 Belgian soldiers in Iraq last year, but that number has been reduced to the present tally.
Minister Flahaut has even suggested gradually withdrawing every Nato soldier out of Afghanistan, but the US is opposed to such a proposal.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news