Czech military hospital personnel leave for Afghanistan

Photo: CTK

Around 30 Czech soldiers left Prague on Monday to join up with their colleagues in the Afghan capital Kabul where a Czech military field hospital is being set up. The hospital with around 100 staff will begin operations in April, providing surgical, post-op and dental care to NATO's ISAF forces fighting Taliban militants in the country.

Photo: CTK
The Czech 6th military field hospital has been deployed in Afghanistan before. After its 2002 Afghan mission it also served in Iraq. The current mission is expected to last for at least a year and includes 82 medical personnel, 13 anti-chemical defence troops and three military police officers working on a four-month rotational basis. Zoltan Bubenik is the commander of the contingent.

"This mission has a clear operational task which is accustomed to the military operation underway on Afghan territory. We can say it won't be a strictly humanitarian mission."

The primary task of the hospital is to provide health care services to NATO troops but in part also to the local civilian population. It is expected to be the hospital's most demanding and dangerous mission since it was first deployed abroad in 1999, in Albania, also because part of the contingent will be serving in combat zones. Vladimir Schlinger of the military field hospital says that most of the members of the contingent have taken part in at least one foreign mission.

"We can't say that we are worried about something in particular. We can expect a different climate and different sort of work than we are used to here in this country. The task of our mission is to provide health care to the coalition soldiers."

The cost of the mission, estimated at 150 million crowns (7.1 million US dollars), will be covered from the defence ministry budget. Around a third of the costs will be later refunded by NATO.