Belgium extends Afghan troop mandate by a year

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Belgium's foreign ministry announced it will extend its military presence in Afghanistan by a year, keeping the same number of soldiers but switching the accent onto Afghan troop training.

BRUSSELS - The extension, from the end of this year to the close of 2011, will keep the Belgian military in Afghanistan through national elections due by June, and contrasts with the fall of the neighbouring Dutch government over the issue.

Belgium, which has more than 600 military personnel in Afghanistan, has not suffered any casualties there, and neither has there been controversy as in the Netherlands.

However, Dutch-speaking Belgian Green and Socialist opponents respectively said the decision was "incomprehensible" and "stupid and wrong."

Belgian troops are present in Kabul, securing the international airport, and in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, but the ministry said it would be pulling troops out of airport duties to reinforce existing training commitments in Kunduz.


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