“The aim is to have just 600 soldiers on the street in May” (Major-General)
Sunday, 18 February 2018
Major-General Johan Peeters, the head of Defence operations, is relieved to see the number of soldiers in the streets drop, he told La Libre Belgique and La Dernière Heure on Saturday. He aims to have just 600 soldiers on the street by the beginning of May. This month “we are at more or less 750. We will continue to reduce it to around 600 between now and the beginning of May. This is the goal we want to meet with the help of the police, depending on security needs”, General Peeters explained during an interview.
He said the metro is considered very vulnerable and soldiers will continue to patrol it. “But we are currently looking at whether it is possible for them to remain closer to the centre of Brussels and avoid going right to the end of the metro lines”.
The General thinks a reduction in the military’s presence on the street is “a relief because the pressure on our soldiers, especially infantry, was very high. Because of that, we had to reduce the amount of training. This has a long term negative impact on missions that are essential to the army, notably deployment abroad”.
“We have to be able to respond to a government request to deploy soldiers abroad. At the moment, we are not ready, except in certain very limited conditions”, the General said.
The Defence department had to abandon plans to deploy a company to the Baltic last year, “but now that there will be fewer soldiers on the street, we have been able to start planning to send a combat company at the end of 2018”.