The Defence Minister Pieter De Crem, welcomed Wednesday morning at the military airport of Melsbroek the last Belgian military in charge of airport security in Kabul, Afghanistan.
This monitoring mission, carried out by a Belgian contingent since 2003, ended on September 30 with the transfer of responsibility for the protection of the Kabul International Airport (KAIA), a multinational contingent commanded by Hungary.
In total, 7,804 Belgian soldiers were assigned to this task nearly ten years, with a peak close to thousand people present in 2008 when Belgium was responsible for the command of the airport. The soldiers were taken every four months.
The bulk of the security forces had already returned to Belgium. Wednesday aboard the A330 that landed at Melsbroek, 54 soldiers were directly involved in the protection of the Kabul airport.
"KAIA has played a key role in rebuilding the country and the Belgians have contributed to improving the lives of people," he said Pieter De Crem.
Soldiers still on the ground
Belgians, however, remain in Afghanistan. Some 350 soldiers are still on the ground, about fifty in Kabul within staffs of Isaf, the international armed force in NATO, as well as schools in the Afghan National Army (ANA).
The Belgians also remain - in principle until 2014, the year of departure of foreign forces - in Kunduz and Mazar-I-Sharif (north) and Kandahar (south), respectively, for the training of ANA units and conduct flight operations in favor of Allied ground troops.