Apaches get extra protection for Afghan mission

12th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

12 February 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Dutch MPs voted in favour on Wednesday night of sending six adapted Apache combat helicopters to the ISAF stabilisation force in Afghanistan for security and reconnaissance tasks.

12 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch MPs voted in favour on Wednesday night of sending six adapted Apache combat helicopters to the ISAF stabilisation force in Afghanistan for security and reconnaissance tasks.

The helicopters will remain in the Central Asian nation for six months and Defence Minister Henk Kamp said extra security precautions will be taken, news agency ANP reported.

The Apaches are vulnerable to ground attack, but Kamp said they will be fitted out with the newest form of "flares". The helicopters can use the flares as a decoy against heat-seeking missiles.

Kamp said the system is already being used on transport helicopters, but the Dutch Apaches are the first combat helicopters in the world that will be fitted out with them.

The minister also said the Apaches will in principle only operate in the Afghan capital of Kabul and its immediate vicinity.

But the helicopters can also be used outside of Kabul in three situations: for reconnaissance purposes, to combat a rocket attack outside the Nato patrol region in Kabul and to offer humanitarian assistance in times of disaster. The Dutch chief of defence must always approve of the missions.

Only the Socialist Party voted against the deployment of the Apaches, after Minister Kamp and Foreign Minister Ben Bot assuaged concerns of main opposition party Labour PvdA, and the green-left GroenLinks.

Minister Bot assured the PvdA and GroenLinks that the Nato-led ISAF international stabilisation force in Afghanistan will not join the US hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.

The six helicopters from the Gilze-Rijen air base and about 135 personnel will be dispatched to Afghanistan in March. The mission will be for six months and the Dutch deployment will be involved in security and reconnaissance tasks.

The Dutch provided 650 troops to the ISAF force after the Taliban regime was ousted at the end of 2001. The Netherlands and Germany handed over joint command of ISAF to Nato in August 2003.

There are also 1,156 Dutch peacekeeping troops in southern Iraq and US Secretary of State Colin Powell has requested that they stay on beyond the scheduled August-completion of the mission.

The Netherlands has 988 troops stationed with the SFOR force in the Balkans and a hospital ship is currently operating in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, with 257 crew members.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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