Belgium: Soldiers disappear from the streets

The military operation Vigilant Guardian, the surveillance mission of soldiers on the streets, in airports and other strategic places, comes to an end on September 1 after more than six years. The operation has been phased out in several phases in recent months. The soldiers remained the longest in the Jewish quarter in Antwerp. The police are taking over the security duties of the military in several phases. The operation was launched in early 2015, in response to the dismantling of the terror cell in Verviers and the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo editorial office in Paris. Defense thus provided support to the federal police to monitor and secure sensitive places. In recent years, the army has regularly asked to stop the mission, because too many soldiers had to be released for it. As a result, they no longer received the necessary training and could no longer focus on their core task. The gradual phasing out started at the end of last year. Then the soldiers disappeared at Charleroi airport, in February the European quarter followed and in April it was the turn of public transport. The embassies followed in June, also in phases. Now that the soldiers are also disappearing from the Antwerp Jewish quarter, the operation has come to a definite end. At the height of the operation, after the attacks in Maalbeek and at Zaventem airport, 1,800 soldiers were deployed on the streets of their own country. By mid-2018, that number had already been reduced to 550, and at the beginning of this year there were still about 250, the Ministry of Defense reported at the time. Between January 2015 and May 2020, the operation cost more than 200 million euros. The tasks of the military are now entrusted to the new Security Directorate of the Federal Police.

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