"Belgians in Afghanistan are doing a fine job"

The Belgian Army Chief of Staff Charles-Henri Delcour is positive about the presence of the 600 Belgian soldiers taking part in NATO's ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Mr Delcour lets his light shine on the global situation in Afghanistan, and points out that there are still a number of challenges to be met. However, not everyone shares his opinion.

NATO started its Afghanistan mission about 10 years ago. Today, Belgium still has some 600 military staff in the country, with some 350 operating in Kabul. "It's true that until now, Belgium has suffered no major setbacks. We have not been confronted with fatal incidents", Mr Delcour told the VRT.

"However, at the same time, there is no peace in Afghanistan. This has a number of reasons: we started the mission with a lack of resources, we underestimated the regional dimensions of the conflict, and waited too long to create an Afghan police force. The country has its army, but no police force."

Other problems include corruption, and there are also question marks behind the strength of the Afghan armed forces. Will they be able to cope when NATO withdraws its troops? "They will have to. We won't stay until 2050", says Mr Delcour.

"Things are not going well at all"

Jan Vandemoortele, who headed the UN mission in Pakistan during four years, does not agree with Mr Delcour where the "regional influences" are concerned. He says that the problems did not spread from Pakistan to Afghanistan, but that it was in fact the other way around.

"The Defence Ministers and NATO often repeat the same old tune. But this is in fact a way to blame Pakistan for the problems in Afghanistan. However, it's not only Pakistan we should look at: India and a number of countries in Central Asia are also playing a role."

"If Mr Delcour argues that the regional dimension of the problem has not been taken into account, then they didn't do their homework well", Mr Vandemoortele says.

He doesn't see the future as bright as Mr Delcour, on the contrary. "Things are not going well at all in Afghanistan. It's up to the local people to take matters in their own hands again. The West should take a step back. We should reduce our military presence and help Afghanistan in another way."