5 Dutch soldiers wounded in Afghanistan
One soldier is in critical condition after losing both his legs.31 March 2008
For the second time in twenty-four hours, Dutch military personnel have been attacked in the Afghan province of Uruzgan. In both cases, roadside bombs were involved.
In the first attack, three people were wounded while patrolling near the city of Tarin Kowt. The condition of one of them, who lost both legs, is said to be critical. The two other victims are said to be doing well.
The second attack came seven hours later and left two soldiers with light injuries. All five of the injured have been in touch with their families.
The Dutch defence minister, Eimert van Middelkoop, and the commander of the Dutch armed forces, Dick Berlijn, have expressed their shock at the incident and offered their condolences to victims' families.
In a joint statement they said, "It is sad to see that the terrorists want to prevent Afghanistan from becoming prosperous and peaceful using these cowardly methods."
Both men stressed that Dutch military forces would continue to carry out their duties in Uruzgan uncompromisingly.
Last month the Taliban threatened to step up attacks on Dutch forces if Geert Wilders' anti-Islam film was released.
Trouw says foreign troops can expect more attacks by improvised explosive devices because it is impossible for the Taliban to win in battle confrontations.
Afghan defence minister general Abdul Rahim Wardak says "The Taliban are no longer able to organise large operations, so they resort to roadside bombs and suicide attacks".
Armouring vehicles does help but is not always possible as troops want contact with the local population. The general goes on to point out that the Afghan army wants to defend its own country, but blames the West for abandoning Afghanistan after Soviet troops left in the 1990s.
The defence minister and president Hamid Karzai will ask for more help to build up the Afghan army at a NATO conference this week. NATO countries however are reluctant to arm Afghanistan, fearing equipment could find its way into the hands of the Taliban.
The army has serious problems preventing its troops from taking leave without permission. Some defect to the Taliban, but many just go home.
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]