Expatica news

Apaches set for Afghan peacekeeping mission

2 December 2003

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands is considering whether to provide four Apache combat helicopters and between 60 to 100 soldiers to Afghanistan to assist in the Nato-led ISAF security operations in and around the capital Kabul.

Defence Minister Henk Kamp said Nato chief Lord Robertson had made an urgent request for helicopters, but the Netherlands would not meet his request to provide transport helicopters because they are currently being used in Iraq and Bosnia.

The Netherlands has a squadron of 30 Apache twin-engine helicopters, which can be armed with rockets, missiles and machineguns to engage targets on the ground, including heavy armoured vehicles.

Nato took over command of the ISAF peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan from the Germans and the Dutch in August, but Lord Robertson said it has not been easy to find troops, especially for operations outside of Kabul, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

And after meeting with Nato colleagues in Brussels on Monday, Kamp said he would present the proposal to dispatch the Apaches to the Dutch Cabinet as soon as possible. The Lower House of Parliament, or Tweede Kamer, must also approve the mission.

The minister hopes the Netherlands can share logistical support for the helicopters with Germany, which already has several transport helicopters stationed in Kabul. It is intended that the helicopters will carry out patrol above the Afghan capital.

The Dutch provided 650 troops to the ISAF force after the Taliban regime was ousted at the end of 2002. Despite several reports of injuries from mine explosions and security concerns due to a series of rocket attacks, most of the troops have since returned home safely. There are 32 Dutch troops still stationed in Afghanistan.

But opposition Labour PvdA MP Bert Koenders said while the mandate of the ISAF mission — which was recently expanded to areas outside of Kabul — remains unclear and while uncertainty exists around the participating nations, a decision to dispatch the Apaches would be “very premature”. He also said the helicopters were extremely powerful, but also very vulnerable to ground fire.

His comments come as US forces continue to hunt for Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and a request from Nato chief Lord Robertson for 14 helicopters and about 400 special operations troops to boost the 5,700-strong peacekeeping force based in Kabul.

To expand operations to 17 regional Afghan cities, additional troops will also be needed, BBC quoted him saying.

But Liberal VVD Minister Kamp has not yet decided when he will send the helicopters and said the number of troops the Netherlands would need to deploy is dependent upon the amount of logistical support the Dutch could rely on from the German contingent.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands is also considering deploying military personnel to participate in a German-led reconstruction project in the Kunduz region, in the north of Afghanistan.

The troops would also be involved in peacekeeping operations, ANP reported.

The Dutch also have 1,100 troops assisting security operations in the south of Iraq and a medical ship, with 270 military crew, was dispatched to Liberia in November to assist UN soldiers on peacekeeping operations.

About 1,000 Dutch troops are serving with the SFOR stabilisation force in the Balkans, but the Nato-led SFOR force will be scaled back from 12,000 to 7,000 troops by March and it is expected that the mission will end shortly thereafter. Control of the region will then be handed over to EU troops and police.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news + Afghanistan