Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Greek Battalion in Afghanistan

DefenceNet reports that the Greek Battalion in Afghanistan may soon have to move from the relative safety of Kabul to the dangerous Herat province. The battalion has spent 7 years in Kabul where it has been involved in the rebuilding of infrastructure. Much pressure has been put on the Greek government to move the battalion to Herat and it looks like this will now finally happen.

Assistant Minister of Defence Beglitis met with the US Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro at the Greek Ministry of Defence today to discuss, amongst others, this issue.

Sources report that the matter of moving the battalion will be discussed at the next Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence. It is considered that not moving the battalion is no longer a real option.

Herat province is about 800 km from Kabul and areas in between are controlled by the Taliban. Hundreds of ISAF and NATO soldiers have been killed in those areas by improvised explosive devices or gunfire. A last ditch effort will be made to avoid having to move the men to Herat.

One crucial question is whether the Greek Battalion in Afghanistan has the necessary equipment to be moved from Kabul to an area where high intensity operations are being conducted.

There are no suitable vehicles available to and the composition of the battalion is also not adequate, it basically consists of a large engineering company. A programme to acquire 10 wheeled armoured fighting vehicles was cancelled due to lack of funds.

Another programme to acquire mine resistant vehicles is also facing difficulty due to cost. This programme foresaw the acquisition of 24 armoured vehicles, 30 armoured trucks and 2 armoured bulldozers. If the necessary funds are not made available a leasing option will likely be considered.

Other issues which were discussed between Beglitis and Shapiro included the ongoing Turkish air space violations, especially the ones over populated islands. The position expressed by Beglitis regarding provocations in the Aegean was that Turkey will reap what it sows with respect to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

Note from HDN: The Greek government must finally decide whether the Greece is in Afghanistan or not. We either contribute or we do not. A case can be made for both scenarios but it is time to pick one and defend the decision. Also, the Greek Defence budget is several billion Euros each year. Surely money can be found to procure armoured vehicles. The men and women of the Greek Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan (and elsewhere for that matter) deserve to receive the appropriate equipment. Greek forces that have served abroad have a very good reputation. They should be given the tools to do the job and to keep them safe.

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