Belgians soldiers off to Afghanistan

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Forty Belgians left Melsbroek military airport Friday morning to take part in NATO's ISAF operation.

8 August 2008

BELGIUM - Forty Belgians soldiers have left for a mission in Southern Afghanistan Friday morning.

The Belgians left Melsbroek military airport and will take part in NATO's ISAF operation. They will pave the way for the arrival of four Belgian fighter jets and an additional 100 Belgian troops in September.

The 40 soldiers left for Kandahar around 10am. Most of them belong to the Field Accommodation Unit and are to set up a camp to accommodate September's fighter jet mission.

The camp will be located near Kandahar Airport and will mostly consist of tents and containers.

The Belgian engineering troops will make sure there are basic facilities, including electricity, air conditioning and bathrooms.

The mission has sparked controversy, as it's considered as more dangerous than the traditional peace missions the Belgian army usually takes part in.

According to August Van Daele, the chief of the General Staff: "there is not a single military mission without any risk."

Former Defence Minister André Flahaut however says the Belgians will be operating "in a particular danger area".

The fighter jet mission has also received a lot of criticism as it's quite expensive.

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