Afghan president visits the Netherlands

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Hamid Karzai expresses thanks to the Dutch government for its financial aid and speaks openly of the difficulties in attaining a stable Afghanistan.

10 June 2008

THE NETHERLANDS - Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in the Netherlands on Monday for a two-day visit. He held talks with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and also met Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, Development Cooperation Minister Bert Koenders and Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop.

On Tuesday, Karzai is due to have lunch with Queen Beatrix before visiting both houses of parliament.

Balkenende had praise for Karzai's efforts towards reconstruction after 30 years of war. However, there was also criticism, with issues including human rights, the treatment of prisoners and corruption being raised.

Just last week, the World Bank voiced open criticism of the widespread corruption in Afghanistan. The total amount of Dutch aid to Afghanistan from 2006 to 2011 - for both reconstruction and the military mission - is expected to be in excess of EUR 1.5 billion.

Karzai thanked the prime minister for Dutch aid to Afghanistan, saying it enabled children to go to school, women to be treated in hospitals and reconstruction projects to go ahead.

Balkenende told the president that NATO and the European Union have agreed to increase their efforts to help build the Afghan police force.

This summer, the Netherlands will send an extra five teams of police instructors to Uruzgan province where 1,650 Dutch soldiers are stationed as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

However, the Dutch prime minister added that Kabul should do more to build up its police force and recruit more officers.

Karzai said he did not expect a stable and democratic society to have been achieved throughout Afghanistan by 2010. However, he hoped that the situation in Uruzgan would allow the province to manage without foreign help when Dutch peacekeepers are withdrawn in that year.

Approval ratings among the general public for the Netherlands' military mission to Uruzgan have fallen as casualty numbers have grown: 16 Dutch soldiers have so far been killed in the province.

[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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