Cabinet backs Afghan mission, public doesn't

22nd December 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 December 2005, AMSTERDAM — A new opinion poll indicates that 68 percent of the Dutch public oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan.

22 December 2005

AMSTERDAM — A new opinion poll indicates that 68 percent of the Dutch public oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan.

The three party centre-right coalition in the Netherlands announced on Thursday it is unanimously in favour of sending 1,200 to 1,400 soldiers to southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban remains very active.

The issue had been postponed three times because junior coalition party D66 was opposed to the mission. MPs of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrat Party (CDA) is undecided. The Liberal (VVD) is the only government party to fully support sending the troops.

D66 Deputy Prime Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst (Economic Affairs) and Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold backed the mission on Thursday. Members of D66 appear to be able to live with this as parliament still has to rubber stamp the deployment in February.

If the two ministers had voted no, the coalition would have collapsed - something that none of the parties wished to happen, particularly just before Christmas.

There is considerable doubt whether MPs will row in behind the government because of concerns about the ongoing unrest in the south of Afghanistan. If they don't, it is unlikely the mission will proceed. The Netherlands already has 600 troops serving with international stabilisation force in Afghanistan.

Wouter Bos, leader of the main opposition Labour Party warned on Thursday that the government should not depend on its support in parliament. 

A Maurice de Hond opinion poll, conducted on behalf of news organisation NOS, found 68 percent of the public oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan. A little more than half said the issue was not worth splitting the coalition.

Asked whether D66 should leave the government if the mission gets the go ahead, 54 percent said no. But 53 percent said there should be an early election next year. The parliament's four-year term ends in 2007.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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