Police trainers may travel to Afghanistan in March
If the Dutch join a NATO police training mission in Afghanistan, 90 trainers may be travelling out to the war-torn country as soon as mid-March. Around 60 trainers will go to the northern Province of Kunduz and the remaining 30 will be based at a camp in Mazar-e-Sharif. The mission is due to begin in mid-May.
In response to hundreds of written questions by the opposition over cabinet plans to send 545 Dutch police and army trainers to Afghanistan, the cabinet revealed that 45 trainers would be working under EU auspices, while the rest would be under NATO command. Four Dutch F-16 planes would be stationed in Mazar-e-Sharif to trace roadside bombs and help Afghan, Dutch and international troops in emergencies.
The cabinet stresses that the civilian and military trainers are there to train and will only defend themselves if necessary. Germany has reassured the Netherlands that its plans to reduce its forces in Kunduz will not affect the security of the Dutch trainers.
The mission will cost the Dutch government 468 million euros, 30 million of which will come from the development cooperation budget.
The Christian Union is "struggling" with the question whether or not to vote in favour of Dutch participation in the NATO mission. The party held a special meeting with party representatives on Saturday. A poll showed two thirds of the party members do not support the mission. The Socialist Party, Labour Party and Freedom Party oppose the mission. The decision of the Green Left could therefore be crucial in Thursday's vote, so far the party leader Jolande Sap is still considering which way to vote.
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