Premier: Dutch parliament supports sending troops to southern Afghanistan
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly supported the deployment of up to 1,400 troops to southern Afghanistan, the premier said, reaffirming the country’s central NATO role and ending more than a half year of political turmoil.No vote was held specifically to send the troops, but Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the deployment had widespread support. Generally, in the Dutch parliament, no formal vote is taken once the parties have made their positions clear.”The mission can go ahead. I will confirm that to the Cabinet tomorrow (Friday),” he said.The proposal to send the troops to the troubled Uruzgan province had run into vocal opposition, including from one of the three parties in the governing coalition, but the turning point came when the opposition Labor Party swung behind the mission earlier this week.”This mission has a chance to succeed. It will be hard, slow-going, and there will be setbacks,” Labor party leader Wouter Bos said during the final debate, signaling his party’s support.A NATO spokesman in Brussels and a NATO observer at the parliament declined comment, saying the alliance would wait until Friday when the Cabinet gives final approval.U.S. and Afghan forces have come under repeated attacks from insurgents in the area.Bos said his party’s concerns were allayed when NATO pledged more money for reconstruction, a security net for the Dutch troops, human rights guarantees for prisoners and independence for the Dutch in their area of operation.”It’s a dangerous mission, the most dangerous mission since Srebrenica,” Defense Minister Henk Kamp acknowledged after the vote. The humiliation of Dutch troops at Srebrenica, Bosnia, 10 years ago by Bosnian Serb forces, when thousands of Muslims under Dutch protection were slaughtered, was a powerful factor in the public hesitation to commit troops again in a combat zone.Left-wing politicians were the most outspoken opponents.”The mission has been called a reconstruction mission, but in reality it is a fighting mission,” Farah Karimi of the Green Left party said. “If the Americans were unable to do any reconstruction, why would we be more successful?”The Netherlands has come under strong pressure from the United States, the European Union and its NATO allies to follow through with an earlier commitment to join the Uruzgan mission.An additional 7,000 Canadian, British, Dutch and Australian forces also are due to deploy in coming months, in the third stage of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF. The U.N.-mandated ISAF was launched in 2002, a year after a U.S.-led international military coalition drove out the Taliban government.Vail, Colorado
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