Monday, June 27, 2011

Question for The Belgian Readers

Belgium has announced that it is removing half of its troops from Afghanistan.  This surprises not a bit, as NATO has already committed to a glidepath to the door by 2014-15.  They call it transition.  What is most interesting about the planned Belgian drawdown is that they are removing their forces around the Kabul airport and the trainers from Kunduz while keeping the F-16's based in Kandahar.

I don't know the exact costs of all of this, but usually the planes and their logistics are pretty steep.  Plus Guards and trainers are less likely to cause controversy back home than fighter planes which can bomb the wrong place.  I don't know what rules of engagement the Belgian pilots must obey (and, yes, those would be Belgian rules, not NATO ones), so it might not be so risky. 

Still, given that Belgium's air force is almost certainly stretched by its participation in the Libyan mission (F-16's again), it is interesting that the ground forces, largely out of harm's way and otherwise unoccupied, are going out the door first. 

Of course, the other striking thing is that Belgium still lacks a government, with caretakers making major decisions.  Perhaps government is over-rated?

I'd appreciate any Belgians or experts on Belgium to provide any perspectives they might care to share. 

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