NATO seeks extension of Dutch mission in Uruzgan
NATO's outgoing Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan says Afghan army will need more time before it can operate without foreign military assistance.29 July 2008
THE NETHERLANDS - The issue of Dutch deployment as part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan is in the news once again.
NATO's outgoing Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, Maurits Jochems, expects the Afghan government and NATO members to ask the Netherlands to extend its mission in Afghanistan beyond 2010. He says the Afghan army will need more time before it can operate without foreign military assistance.
Speaking unofficially, Jochems described the build-up of the Afghan army as a success story. He says it has increased in strength from 7,000 troops several years ago to more than 50,000 today.
However, he does not expect it to be operating throughout the country before 2012, when there will be an estimated 122,000 Afghan troops available. Even then, he believes NATO air support will still be needed.
While praising the bravery of ordinary Afghan soldiers, he did have some criticism of the army's organisation and leadership.
Dutch opposition MP Hans van Baalen has criticised Jochems' remarks. He argues that "parliament agreed to the extension on condition that deployment would end in 2010. At that date, Dutch soldiers must be withdrawn". He is urging the Dutch government to send NATO an unequivocal message to this effect.
The extension of the mission from the original pullout date of August 2008 was sold to the Dutch people mainly on the strength of the reconstruction work to be achieved as part of deployment.
In late 2007, opinion polls were already indicating that a majority of people in the Netherlands no longer supported the deployment of Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan.
Surprisingly, it was the lack of success of the mission, rather than the 16 Dutch soldiers who have died in Afghanistan, which appeared to be the deciding factor in turning public opinion against deployment.
[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]
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