Commandos set to protect Dutch troops
26 November 2003 , AMSTERDAM — Amid intensified security fears and waves of terrorist attacks in Iraq, the Netherlands is considering dispatching 70 to 80 commandos to the bloodied Islamic nation to reinforce its peacekeeping marines.
26 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — Amid intensified security fears and waves of terrorist attacks in Iraq, the Netherlands is considering dispatching 70 to 80 commandos to the bloodied Islamic nation to reinforce its peacekeeping marines.
The elite special forces troops would carry out reconnaissance missions and take on security tasks. It is possible they will depart for the south of Iraq later this week.
The Cabinet is expected on Friday to extend the Dutch peacekeeping mission by an extra six months. There are currently 1,100 Dutch soldiers stationed in Iraq and government ministers postponed last week's decision after requesting more information about the security situation.
A recent suicide bomb attack near where the Dutch detachment is based killed 19 Italian troops, and Iraqi police have reportedly prevented an attack against Dutch troops by arresting an Al Qaeda suspect who allegedly tried to obtain explosives and recruits.
A security assessment has also reportedly advised the government that terrorists are preparing attacks in the Dutch patrol region and are intermingling with the local population. It also alleges that terrorists are trying to recruit local residents for possible attacks.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Henk Kamp and the Defence Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant-Admiral Luuk Kroon gave a confidential briefing to several cabinet ministers on Tuesday, including Democrat D66 Deputy Prime Minister Thom de Graaf and D66 Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, both of whom have questioned whether it is responsible to continue the peacekeeping mission.
But a resolute Minister Kamp and Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer are in favour of deploying commandos to strengthen and help secure the marines already in Iraq.
Cabinet sources said the plan was formulated in response to the worsening security situation in the Iraqi province of Al Muthanna — the Dutch patrol region. Furthermore, the commanding officer has requested extra troops and a Chinook transport helicopter, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
And the deployment of the commandos is designed to sway hesitating ministers and MPs to back the extension of the mission. Commandos were also a part of the Dutch peacekeeping deployment in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan troops recently returned home relatively unscathed, despite several mine explosion injuries.
Several Dutch MPs who went on a fact-finding mission in Iraq have expressed concern about the lack of intelligence on the British and US side of the security operation. Among other tasks, the Dutch commandos would thus also be involved in intelligence gathering about possible terrorist attacks.
Kamp said it was a better option to deploy more personnel rather than planes or helicopters with tracking equipment. He said the reconnaissance planes and helicopters could spot suspects, but could not direct troops quickly enough in the Iraqi desert.
It remains unclear whether the cabinet will request a separate parliamentary resolution over the use of the commandos. But some military experts have said the use of such troops did not breach the current Iraq peacekeeping mandate, meaning that the troops could depart later this week.
In Tuesday's confidential briefing, ministers were informed that the majority of the nation's troops in Iraq are encamped in the desert and have a have long-range vision of possible approaching attackers.
The only location in a built up area is in an office building in the city of As Samawah, but the building has been surrounded by concrete blocks to prevent possible suicide attacks using cars or trucks. Sources have said the briefing was satisfying, impressive and of a high quality, NOS reported.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende also said last Friday that there was a "positive basic attitude" within the cabinet about the possible extension of the mission. Besides the additional commandos, land force troops are expected to relieve the 1,100 marines in mid-January.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news