Expatica news

MPs back longer Iraqi security mission

12 December 2003

AMSTERDAM — Despite concerns over security, Dutch MPs approved the extension of the Dutch peacekeeping mission in Iraq by six months on Thursday.

Amid a rising number of terrorist attacks against coalition troops, security fears intensified after 19 Italian soldiers were killed in a recent suicide bomb attack just 30km away from the Dutch base.

But after receiving an updated security analysis, the Cabinet approved at the end of last month the extension of the mission, and Defence Minister Henk kamp was given the task of convincing MPs to back the decision.
The minister has since said he could not ease Parliament’s concerns, nor could he rule out an attack against the 1,100 Dutch troops stationed in Iraq. But he said everything possible was being done to secure their safety.

Kamp deployed 70 commandos earlier this month to track down possible terrorists in the thinly-populated Al Muthanna desert province, the Dutch patrol region. It is feared terrorists could cross the border from Saudi Arabia and mingle with the local population.

Iraq authorities have recently confirmed the arrest of an Al Qaeda suspect who allegedly tried to obtain explosives and recruits to carry out an attack against Dutch soldiers. The Defence Ministry has also raised its threat analysis from low to moderate.

But the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, decided there was an acceptable risk in keeping the troops in southern Iraq. Only the Socialist party and green-left GroenLinks remain opposed to the mission, but both parties object to any coalition troops staying in Iraq.

Dutch troops in Iraq will be relieved in January and the replacement troops will start transferring power to the Iraqis in March. The troops will gradually withdraw from cities and villages. They are currently carrying out patrols, engaged in the provision of armed escorts to convoys or manning surveillance posts in the region.

Meanwhile, it has been estimated that there are between several hundred to thousands of extremists and Al Qaeda volunteers in Al Muthanna. There are also between 3,000 and 4,000 former soldiers of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard in the province.

But the marines will soon be reinforced by 600 Japanese troops after the Asian nation’s Cabinet made an historic decision this week to deploy the soldiers. The Japanese will mainly be involved in humanitarian projects.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news