Dutch mission to Afghanistan all set to go

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The Dutch training mission to Afghanistan, comprising military personnel and police officers, has finished its preparations and is ready to set off to Kunduz.

The so-called Police Training Group will hold one last practice on Tuesday at a training camp constructed by the defence ministry in northern town of Marnerwaard. The majority of the 545-strong force will set off for Kunduz within weeks.

Political hot potato The mission – charged with training and supporting local police – has stirred up considerable political controversy. The coalition Conservative Party and Christian Democrats approved the mission in January. But Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party – on which the government depends for a parliamentary majority – opposed the mission.

The Green Left Party angered many of its members by voting in favour of the mission, but it first secured guarantees from the government that Dutch police officers would not be used to fight the Taliban.

Worsening security The new mission will get underway amid deteriorating security circumstances. Violence has also increased rapidly in the Kunduz province where the Police Training Group will be primarily stationed. Terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of some 100 people in the province this year.

The mission, led by Colonel Ron Smits, is expected to remain in Kunduz for three years.

The decision last January to send a new mission to Afghanistan came almost a year after the previous government collapsed in a dispute over extending military deployment in the war-torn country.

In the previous mission - which claimed the lives of 24 Dutch soldiers - some 1,950 troops were sent as part of the ISAF force, mainly to the central province of Uruzgan. The previous deployment lasted four years and ended in August 2010.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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