Dutch end peacekeeping mission in Iraq

7th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Dutch troops have handed over command to British forces in the southern Iraqi province of al-Muthanna, officially ending the Netherlands' 20-month peacekeeping mission in the war-ravaged nation.

7 March 2005

AMSTERDAM — Dutch troops have handed over command to British forces in the southern Iraqi province of al-Muthanna, officially ending the Netherlands' 20-month peacekeeping mission in the war-ravaged nation.

Dutch Chief-of-Staff Dick Berlijn attended the ceremony in the Iraqi city As Samawah along with representatives from local Iraqi authorities. British and Japanese military commanders also attended.

The ceremony at Camp Smitty saw the lowering of the Dutch flag and the raising of the Union Jack, news service NOS reported on Monday.

Dutch soldiers will remain in Iraq for another week to ensure a smooth transfer to British forces. Most Dutch troops will be home in the Netherlands at the start of April, but a helicopter deployment will remain in Iraq until mid-April.

The withdrawal of the Dutch forces is a massive logistical operation. In total, some 1,100 shipping containers and 663 vehicles will be brought home. Part of the equipment, such as sleeping quarters and shower and toilet buildings will be handed over to the British.

The Dutch government gave "political, but not military support" to the US-led invasion of Iraq and in total some 7,000 Dutch soldiers have taken part in the peacekeeping mission. They trained 3,300 Iraqi security officers, half of them at Camp Smitty, the main the Dutch base.

The mission was not without its tragedy though, with two Dutch soldiers killed by Iraqi renegades. Sergeant Dave Steensma of the land forces was killed on 10 May and military police Sergeant Jeroen Severs was killed on 14 August last year.

Mortar attacks were also targeted against Dutch bases and occasional skirmishes were reported in the Dutch patrol area. Dutch soldiers killed about a dozen Iraqis in checkpoint and other security incidents.

The mission also led to a political conflict last year between the Justice and Defence ministries when Sergeant-Major Erik O. was arrested. He had been involved in a shooting in which an Iraqi looter was suspected to have been killed.

O. was flown home to the Netherlands late December 2003 on accusations of murder of manslaughter, charges which were later dropped.

Arnhem Court acquitted him in October last of breaching military rules of engagement, but the public prosecutor is appealing the ruling.

The Dutch Cabinet went against US requests at the end of last year and decided to end the mission in March. But discussions about extending the mission continued until Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende ruled out a staged withdrawal in January.

The Dutch government is now sending 250 soldiers and four transport helicopters to Afghanistan to assist US forces track down terrorist operatives along the Pakistan border. The troops will be deployed as part of the mission Enduring Freedom for at least one year.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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