Heavy battle for opium route Afghanistan

Dutch and Afghan troops have fought hard this past week with large numbers of Taliban fighters. The fight was an important opium route in the Chora district in the Afghan province of Uruzgan. That is what the commander of the Dutch troops declared in Chora. According to the commander, the blazing violence is the result of the poppy harvest that takes place during this period. “The Chora district has an important connection route that the Taliban uses for the transport of opium. They use the proceeds of the opium for the purchase of weapons “. According to the commander, there is no relationship with the destruction of the poppy fields by the Afghan government earlier this week. After three days of heavy skirmishes, the situation is now somewhat quieter. “There has been a pretty fierce battle in which we have fought hard together with the Afghan security forces. It is a little quieter now, but the situation remains fragile “, according to the Dutch commander. The fighting started a week ago when Taliban fighters conquered an Afghan police station. A Dutch unit that happened to be in the neighborhood, helped the Afghan troops. After the police station was knocked out by a combat vehicle, the battle moved to the surrounding areas, a defense spokesman indicates. “Large numbers of Taliban troops gathered around Chora. The Netherlands then sent a “substantial number of troops” because the Chora district is an important area, both militarily and psychologically. The fall of Chora would have led to the Taliban going to the south via the Baluchi valley. That would have put tremendous pressure on Tarin Kowt, “said the spokesperson.
Both on the Taliban side and on the side of the Afghan security forces, an unknown number of fatalities fell. There were no victims on the Dutch side.


(may 2007)


Demolishing Mafao Minefields

A couple of miles of Juba, capital city of South Sudan, are the Mafao-Minefields. The place is extremely dangerous. Residents of villages in the area and members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have indicated where the mines are located. A battalion of Bangladesh’s UN troops (32 men) has been working to demolish the area of ​​220,000 m2 for four months. They search every inch. Major Salahin Mohammed from the Bangladesh Militairy Demining Compagny explains how demining works. A distinction is made between military and humanitarian demining. Military demining involves speed. Two deminers work next to each other. Safety is the most important issue in demining. The men have completed four months’ training in Bangladesch and have gained experience in various countries, including Ethipie and Eritrea. (meer…)


“Team spirit keeps us going”

Fire Brigade is ready 24/7

The firefighting crew who have been stationed for four and a half months at Kamp Holland in Uruzgan mainly consists of men from the Gilze-Rijen Airforce Base, supplemented by men from Soesterberg and Leeuwarden. The base of the fire department is equipped with a command center, an office, hobby room and an outdoor terrace where visitors and fellow soldiers regularly drink a cup of coffee and have a chat. “We live together all time. We only handle that because the atmosphere is good. A lot is being laughed at here, “says sergeant Marcel (32). The duthmen is the commander of a fire fighting truck. The eleven-strong team has three crashtenders and a tank car sprayer, together for 20,000 liters of water and 1,500 liters of foam. (meer…)


Nurses in war zones have to keep their head cool

Corporal Shareena (23)  and Corporal Maaike (26) from The Netherlands work at the “Uruzgan Medical Center” of Kamp Holland and have been friends for years. Shareena cleans medical equipment and Maaike works on the blood bank and in the laboratory. “It is actually an ordinary hospital, but in a small way”, says Maaike. “We have operating rooms, intensive care, physiotherapy, a pharmacist, general practitioner and dentist”. Both corporals arrived in Afghanistan two months ago for their first mission of five months. An intensive preparation preceded this. (meer…)


“In a few years I will come back”

Commander Reconstruction Team works on rebuilding Afghanistan

Captain Twan (39) is the commander of a Dutch provincial team that works on the reconstruction of Uruzgan. “In our work it is important that you have the confidence of the people. Make a chat in a while, make sure it clicks. Afghans have a good sense of humor and are very hospitable. They always invite you for a cup of tea or ask if you continue to eat, “says the commander. “During our work we are protected by the battle group, combat units of the army. They take care of our safety, so that we can quietly do our work “. (meer…)


“After fighting, I wanted to go back”

Soldier Bart from the Netherlands is a shooter in combat unit

The first time he ended up in a gunfight, soldier first class Bart (20) from the Netherlands will never forget. “It was in early April when we moved from the base in Poentjak to the north. We had already heard from other troops that there were a lot of shelling and attacks were being carried out with roadside bombs and suicide bombings. It was early in the morning when we entered a small village and the fire was opened on us. We heard the rocket grenades fly over us and let us fall flat on the ground. Then it went pretty loose. Especially when my size was hit, I was shocked, but fortunately the injuries turned out to be not too bad “, the soldier looks backwards, sober. (meer…)


“People determine the success of the mission”

Commander Van Griensven leads reconstruction mission in Uruzgan

Koen (10) and Tim (8) are very proud of their father, Colonel Hans van Griensven. “In a restaurant they asked the waitress if she knew who I was”, the Colonel smiles. The commander of the Dutch and Australian troops in Uruzgan, together 1750 men, has just returned from a short holiday in the Netherlands. “I can switch quickly, it is fantastic to be home again. When I was playing football with my boys on the first day of my holiday, I could hardly imagine that I had spent three months in Uruzgan. The other happens in such a period of everything that you are not directly involved with. I prefer to be at the helm myself”. (meer…)


For my son, this is also the third mission

Apache pilot from Hank is pilot by heart and soul

Home of the Redskins, that’s the name of the shelter where the pilots of the Apache squadron of the airbase Gilze-Rijen are housed. Captain Martin (36) from Hank is a pilot on the Apache combat helicopter for the third time in Afghanistan. In the two previous missions in 2004 the base was Kabul, now Martin is stationed in the southern Uruzgan. “There are many more combat contacts here than in the north. There was the appearance of an Apache enough to end the fight. The Taliban then eggs for her money. In the south they have a stronger survival culture”. The Apaches are used to protect the ground troops, not only in Uruzgan, but also in the neighboring provinces where English and Canadian troops are located. Martin: “It would have been more logical if we had been in the more central Kandahar. However, politics wanted us to be close to our own boys so that we can help them in case of need”. (meer…)


“Erika is one of the guys”

Young female soldier is the fire chief on the largest artillery of Kamp Holland

She is only nineteen years old, but Kamp Holland’s biggest artillery does not fire a single shot without her. Guardian Erika from the dutch Army is the fire chief on the panther howitzer, a 36 ft long artillery gun that can shoot over 20 miles with great precision. The passion for the army was there at a early age. “As a child I wanted to be in the army, it’s so tough! My father sometimes told stories about his years of service and together we visited all introduction days from the army. That made me more and more enthusiastic. When I finally became 16.5 years old, I signed up that same day”. (meer…)

About me

About me

Bart Coolen is a photojournalist, based in The Netherlands and member of the International Federation of Journalists.

He covered stories for newspapers and magazines in Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkana/Kenya, Sudan, the USA and most European countries.

Contact: (0031 6 53386113).

You can see more of my photo’s on