Dutch MPs urged to back police trainers for Afghanistan

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Afghanistan's interior minister urged Dutch lawmakers Monday to endorse a cabinet's decision to send police trainers to his country.

"I believe that the Dutch training mission is of critical importance to improve the quality of the police and their role in the safety of Afghanistan," Bismullah Mohammadi told a joint hearing of parliament's justice, defence and foreign affairs committees.

MPs were being briefed on the cabinet's decision to send 545 men and women to Afghanistan between 2011 and 2014, mainly to Kunduz -- a plan that requires majority support in a parliamentary vote scheduled for Thursday.

Questioned about the trainers' safety, the minister said: "Many areas in the north of Afghanistan, including the provinces of Kunduz and Bahlan, have been cleared of Taliban, rebels and terrorists".

The Dutch cabinet agreed to the training mission earlier this month -- just under a year after the last government collapsed in a spat over military deployment to the conflict-torn nation.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is not sure to get the parliamentary majority he needs, stressed at the time that the team would have a "strict training objective" and would not be involved in any military offensive.

About 1,950 Dutch troops had been deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), mainly in the central Uruzgan province.

The four-year Dutch deployment that ended in August last year, claimed the lives of 24 soldiers.

NATO's request for an extension of the Dutch deployment sparked a political row that led to the centre-left government's collapse in February last year, precipitating the August pullout.

Rutte has said the security of the Dutch trainers would be ensured by troops from Germany, the lead ISAF nation in Kunduz.

© 2011 AFP

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