Belgium announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Belgium’s Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder announced on Saturday that Belgian troops in Afghanistan will return home next year.

“We are preparing our withdrawal,” which “will occur during the year 2021,” Dedonder said in an interview with Het Belang van Limburg newspaper.

“We cannot simply leave; agreements have to be made with our allies. The evacuation of equipment alone will take three months,” she said.

Dedonder is scheduled to present the military operations plan for 2021 to the Belgium cabinet, and then to parliament, next week.

About 70 Belgian military personnel are deployed in Afghanistan as part of the US-led NATO Resolute Support mission.

Last month, Dedonder told the Defence Commission that her ministry anticipated a gradual and conditional withdrawal of NATO’s Resolute Support mission from Afghanistan, in keeping with the decisions expected to be taken by NATO.

“The practical withdrawal of the Belgian units will be done in close coordination with our German partner,” she added.

Just over 70 Belgian military personnel are deployed in Afghanistan, mainly in Mazar-e-Sharif, under German command.

Currently there are around 11,000 NATO troops in the country but the US is expected to draw down its troop levels from around 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.