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Belgium. The soldiers leave the street, the police take over

(B2) The Belgian police now provide sole surveillance in all public transport, airports, metros and stations in the country. It replaces the soldiers called in reinforcement at the height of the terrorist wave between 2015 and 2016

All servicemen will be taken off the streets before the end of summer 2021 (credit: MIL Belgium / Sedeyn)

The end of six years of patrol

This puts an end to six years of notable presence of military personnel on Belgian streets. An exceptional presence in the flat country. Never since the 2nd World War had soldiers been deployed on Belgian soil. Their action was reserved for the outside world (unlike France, which has lived for almost thirty years to the rhythm of the various Vigipirate plans). The Belgian operation, called 'Vigilant Guardian', was launched the day after the Paris attacks of January 2015 and the 'muscular' dismantling of a terrorist cell in Verviers, demonstrating close ties between the two countries. It was reinforced after the Bataclan attacks of November 2015 and, above all, after the attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016.

A gradual return

The return of the soldiers to their barracks was decided at the end of 2020. It started with Charleroi Gosselies airport, then the European institutions on February 1. The step taken on Thursday concerns other airports, metros and stations. A number of embassies and other institutions will follow later this year. : the police resuming their usual duties of patrolling and monitoring certain insured locations. A withdrawal desired by the army, soldiers at the top. The Head of Belgian Defence, Vice-Admiral Michel Hofman, said this clearly to Belgian deputies on October 21, during a hearing in the Defense Committee: “ Isn't it high time to find a structural solution after nearly six years of military presence on the streets? “, as reported by the agency Belgian. A declaration very much in line with the political will of the new government of the Vivaldi coalition.

Linked to threat assessment

This withdrawal is organized always taking into account the OCAM threat analysis we assure the Belgian defence. An estimated threat level of 2 at this time, with the exception of a number of potential targets for which threat level 3 (on a scale of 4) remains in effect (such as the Jewish community of Antwerp for example ). The objective is – if nothing changes – to be able to ensure complete succession by the federal and local police by September 1, 2021.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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