Balkenende bulldozes through 'Afghan roadblock'
UPDATED: 13 January 2006, AMSTERDAM — The full cabinet has decided to send more Dutch troops to Afghanistan, Prime Minister Balkenende declared on Friday afternoon.
UPDATED: 13 January 2006
AMSTERDAM — The full cabinet has decided to send more Dutch troops to Afghanistan, Prime Minister Balkenende declared on Friday afternoon.
Speaking after the weekly cabinet meeting, Balkenende said the decision of the centre-right coalition would be outlined in a letter to parliament.
MPs will be asked to decide on Tuesday whether to open a debate about the government's decision.
Parliament has been refusing to hold a substantive debate on the mission for weeks because the coalition would not make a formal decision on involvement. Due to the opposition of junior partner D66, the government restricted itself to an "intention" on 22 December.
Balkenende insisted on Friday the cabinet had already made clear on 22 December that it wished to proceed with sending 1,200 soldiers to be part of a 6,000 Nato force in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.
Many deputies in D66 and the opposition feel the deployment in a Taliban heartland is too dangerous and the mission too focused on military objectives rather than reconstruction.
Green-left party GroenLinks said on Friday D66 had now lost the last drop of credibility. given that it had suddenly abandoned its opposition to the mission.
Balkenende said it was important the Netherlands sent the troops the Afghan people were so keen to see.
Earlier on Friday, Defence Minister Henk Kamp has insisted no new arguments would be presented at the cabinet meeting to break the deadlock on the controversial mission.
Kamp said the cabinet was standing by the letter it sent to parliament before Christmas stating the "intention" to send the troops. "All our arguments are contained in this," Kamp said.
The letter cited the in involvement of the European Union in the construction efforts in Uruzgan. He said the government's declared "intention" was enough basis for parliament to consider the deployment.
Kamp said he was confident the cabinet would survive the controversy and the mission would proceed.
Newspaper 'De Volkskrant' said the cabinet was working on a compromise deal involving a greater role for the EU in the Nato mission to the southern province of Uruzgan in Afghanistan. More emphasis would also be put on the reconstruction rather than military aims of the mission.
The Netherlands is under significant pressure from the US, the government in Kabul and Nato to provide the troops.
The Netherlands already has 600 troops serving elsewhere in Afghanistan.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news