Last Dutch soldiers back from Afghanistan
With the arrival on Saturday of a KDC-10 aircraft carrying back more than 50 soldiers of the F-16 detachment, the Dutch military has closed off its mission in Afghanistan.
On June 30 the Air Task Force carried out its last mission in the country; in total the detachment flew more than 100,000 missions. On arrival at Eindhoven airforce base just after 1.00pm, the aircraft received a ceremonial water wetting salute from the fire department. On hand to receive the returning soldiers was army commander Tom Middendorp who lauded the soldiers for the role they played. He said that with their support from the air, colleagues and allied forces in Kunduz had been able to fight the Taliban, train Afghan fighters and help the renovation efforts in the country. “The Afghan people can, after many years of surviving, finally work on their own development and safety,” said General Middendorp.
Many of the soldiers had been on six to seven tours in Afghanistan. “You were there when it was needed. You were always on alert and you saved lives of Dutch and foreign soldiers, as well as of Afghan civilians,” MIddendorp said, revealing how often commanders from the Air Task Force have been called by their coalition partners to thank them for their support from the air. NATO-air force commander John K McMullen up to last week thanked the Dutch fighter pilots, writing: ‘They have set the standard for all NATO air forces to follow’. “A beautiful compliment," said the Commander. The coming home ceremony also paid homage to the Dutch soldiers who perished in Afghanistan. During the 12 years of missions in the country, the Dutch army lost 25 soldiers.