Dutch commandos set for Afghan mission
25 February 2005 , AMSTERDAM — The Cabinet is reportedly planning to send 150 commandos to Afghanistan to fight alongside US soldiers in secret operations against terrorists holed up along the Pakistan border.
25 February 2005
AMSTERDAM — The Cabinet is reportedly planning to send 150 commandos to Afghanistan to fight alongside US soldiers in secret operations against terrorists holed up along the Pakistan border.
The elite troops would be deployed for initially one year as part of the US military's Enduring Freedom operation aimed at flushing out and destroying radical-Islamic Taleban fighters and the terrorist network al-Qaeda of Osama bin Laden, newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Friday.
Foreign Minister Ben Bot and Defence Minister Henk Kamp want the soldiers to engage in combat operations with US and British troops, plus those from other willing nations such as Denmark and Australia. They will be involved in destroying terrorist training camps along the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border.
Preparations for the mission are believed to have been secretly discussed between the US and the Netherlands. Political sources claim Bot and Kamp will present their proposal during the cabinet's weekly meeting on Friday.
But neither the Defence Ministry nor the Foreign Affairs Ministry has officially confirmed the report, news agency ANP reported.
The mission is politically sensitive, with government coalition party Democrat D66 labelling the cabinet's plans "a radical intention", demanding guarantees over the safety of the troops. It also said the plan must not be a form of redemption with the US for the withdrawal of Dutch peacekeeping troops from Iraq.
Theoretically, the cabinet does not need to discuss the mission with the Parliament because of its secret nature. But government coalition party Christian Democrat CDA is demanding the Lower House be informed, possibly also in secret.
And because the 150 commandos and marines will be deployed in "the highest theatre of war", the mission warrants a decision by the parliament, CDA MP Henk Jan Ormel claimed on Radio 1 on Friday. He is not opposed to the mission, but is demanding more information.
The Dutch military union VBM/NOV said it is concerned about the legal position of the elite troops and wants to prevent any possible prosecution of the soldiers.
A spokesman for the union denied that the commando mission will lead to confusion due to the fact that there is also a Dutch peacekeeping force in the nation.
He told Expatica that the population is happy the Taleban regime has been forced out of power and that the Afghan people will look upon the peacekeeping mission and the Dutch combat operations as being one and the same.
The Netherlands was only previously involved in the Nato-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. There is an Apache combat helicopter deployment and 135 soldiers in the Afghan capital Kabul and a further 130 soldiers deployed in the north of the country.
But it was also revealed on Thursday that the Netherlands is expected to dispatch four F16 fighter jets and 100 air force personnel to Afghanistan for a mission of at least one year.
The fighter jets will replace the combat helicopters — which are due to return home on 31 March — and the cabinet is expected to make a decision later on Friday.
The cabinet is also planning to send 600 to 750 marines to the central Asian nation to maintain security during parliamentary and regional elections later this year. The troops are currently part of Nato's strategic reserve.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news