Afghanistan: Belgium sends engineers to prepare for troop deployment

The Belgian government says 55 military engineers will leave for Afghanistan next week to prepare the ground for 100 troops being sent to strengthen the NATO operation there. The troops and four F16 fighter planes are to be deployed by September to assist the Dutch contingent in NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the Kandahar area for six months. Belgium already has soldiers guarding the Kabul airport and working in reconstruction teams in the north of the country. In comments broadcast by VRT radio Saturday, Defense Minister Pieter De Crem said that by deploying the additional troops Belgium has responded to calls for solidarity with its allies.