28 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — Despite security concerns prompting the dispatch of 70 specialist commandos, the Cabinet decided on Friday to extend the Dutch peacekeeping mission in the south of Iraq by an extra six months.
There are 1,100 Dutch marines stationed in Iraq and the 70 commandos will take up station in the desert region as quickly as possible to help bolster security. The Dutch are stationed in the thinly-populated province of Al Muthanna.
In response to the deaths of 19 Italian soldiers in a recent car bomb attack near where the Dutch are based, the Cabinet recognised the security situation in war-torn Iraq has worsened. The commandos have been assigned to assist in intelligence gathering about possible terror attacks.
The Cabinet delayed a decision on extending the mission last week, requesting an in depth security briefing. Defence Minister Henk Kamp and Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer remained firm this week in their determination that the mission should be extended.
The commandos can operate in hiding, in groups of three or four, for up to two weeks along the desert border with Saudi Arabia. It is feared that terrorists could cross the border and intermingle with nomads or the local population.
Iraqi police have also reportedly thwarted plans to attack the Dutch soldiers after arresting a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist who allegedly tried to obtain weapons, explosives and recruits.
But government minister said initial problems with the sharing of intelligence from US and British forces over possible terrorist movements has since improved and the dispatch of Orion reconnaissance or F-16 fighter jets was unnecessary.
The extension of the peacekeeping mission means that the present group of marines will remain in Iraq for another four months.
It is expected they will be relieved at the start of April by two companies of the armoured infantry division Limburgse Jagers (Limburg Hunters) from Seedorf and a company from the airborne brigade from Schaarsbergen.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news