February 9, 2005 (by Bjorn Claes) - Today a Belgian newspaper reported that Belgium was to send 4 F-16 fighters to Afghanistan for the coming parliamentary elections. This was made public by Belgian foreign minister after his meeting with US foreign secretary Condoleezza Rice earlier this morning.
During this meeting with the US foreign secretary, the Belgian minister Karel De Gucht stated that Belgium
would continue its military presence in Afghanistan within the NATO
force. This would include sending F-16s to the country to help and protect ground forces deployed there in the ongoing ISAF operations and also for the upcoming parliamentary elections who are scheduled to take place in April or May of 2005. Although a rescheduling untill later this year still seems possible.
Last week the Netherlands
also stated that they are thinking about sending a number of F-16s to Manas AB, just like they did with last years presidential elections. This could mean that Belgium and the Netherlands are combining forces once more in a so-called DATF. This DATF was established in 1996 and resulted in the combined operations of Belgian and Dutch F-16s over the Balkan. In this case both countries would be contributing 4 F-16s each to the task force.
More details about this deployment will be made public as the event draws closer. This statement was also made after a meeting and formal approval by both the Belgian and Dutch governments still has to be made.