Dutch cabinet okays new Afghan mission

Friday, January 7, 2011

AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government Friday agreed on a new mission in Afghanistan to provide training to security forces and help in building up the country’s police and justice organs.

Under the plans, up to 545 Dutch personnel will be sent to Afghanistan until the year 2014 for the training programme, for which German soldiers would provide protection.

In addition, The Hague aims to leave four F-16 fighter jets with some 120 flight and ground personnel who were to have been withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Premier Mark Rutte, discussing the decisions, noted that the new mission would have a different direction than the country’s previous engagement which was ended last summer and which allowed for direct military action by the Dutch military.

Rutte, head of a minority government of the conservative Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), urged parliament to approve the plans. To pass, the government will need votes from the opposition benches.

Opinion surveys show that a narrow majority of Dutch are opposed to the new mission.

The new government took office in October and has since been urged by the western NATO alliance to reconsider things and at least to continue helping out in Afghanistan in the area of training.

The Netherlands had become the first NATO country to officially end its Afghanistan military deployment last summer, after tensions over its involvement led to the breakup of the previous governing coalition of the CDA and Labour.

Observers expect that the plans will garner the support of a slight parliamentary majority, despite resistance to the idea by the Labour Party and the far-right Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders.

Before its withdrawal, the Netherlands had stationed up to 2,000 soldiers in the southern Uruzgan province since 2006, with 24 killed and some 140 injured.

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