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Czech troops in Afghanistan seen as cowards: report

world Updated: Apr 22, 2009 15:37 IST
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Czech soldiers in Afghanistan have let their British command down by refusing to fight terrorists several times, the Czech daily DNES wrote on Wednesday. When asked by the Britons to attack Afghan rebels, the commander of a special operations unit (SOG) said "we're not going to, it's dangerous," then ordered his men to get in trucks and return to the base.

On another occasion, an SOG commander decided that the task the Britons had set ran counter to the unit's mission. Yet another time, a commander said he could not help as his soldiers were on vacation. "I find it hard to recover from the news I get about this unit. It harms the reputation of the army," Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova told the daily.

Her ministry is now investigating the commanders of the SOG unit of up to 35 soldiers, currently deployed as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan. The daily said SOG should not be confused with an acclaimed special unit of 100 soldiers serving in the southern Kandahar province within the Enduring Freedom operation.

The Czech army, which has lost three soldiers in Afghanistan since 2007, has another 275 people working in the Logar provincial reconstruction team, serving under ISAF. The SOG commanders argued that Czech laws did not say clearly whether their unit, trained to free hostages, should also help fight terrorists or protect humanitarian convoys.

The daily added the army was looking into the relevant law, but it was too late to mend its reputation now that that the Britons had started to work with Danish troops instead, leaving the specially trained Czech soldiers to serve as ordinary guards or bodyguards for diplomats.

A Czech soldier who was left guarding the base recalled how the Britons and Danes "left to fight and only laughed at us with contempt."