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Dutch government collapses over Afghanistan

Saturday 20 February 2010

The Dutch government collapsed in the early hours of Saturday morning over Labour's insistence that the Netherlands pull out of Afghanistan this year.

After two days of intensive talks and a bitter parliamentary debate, it had become increasingly clear the gulf between prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and deputy prime minister Wouter Bos was too great to bridge.

Labour leader Bos stated earlier this week that he wanted a decision on Nato's request to the Netherlands to stay in Afghanistan at Friday's cabinet meeting. And that decision would have to be a no, he said repeatedly.

Balkenende said he wanted to keep all options open and was sticking to the March 1 deadline.


'I have to conclude that there is no fruitful path to allow this cabinet to continue,' Balkenende said in a short statement.

The Labour party's comments had placed a 'political mortgage' on the cabinet, he said.

Efforts to restore trust between the parties had failed, he said. 'Given the challenges facing the Netherlands, what is needed is strength, not the easy way out.'


The prime minister will now offer his government's resignation to the queen, who is skiing in Lech, Austria.

This is the fourth Balkenende government not to complete a formal four year term. Two others collapsed over political infighting and one was a minority cabinet.

A general election will take place within three months and will not affect the local elections which take place on March 3.


The collapse of the government means that the withdrawal of Dutch troops from Afghanistan will now begin in August because caretaker ministers are not allowed to make controversial decisions.

'A withdrawal will damage the reputation of the Dutch as a reliable partner that is willing and able to contribute to important military missions,' Edwin Bakker, a senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague told news agency Reuters.

The Netherlands has some 1,800 soldiers and support staff in Afghanistan, mainly in the southern region of Uruzgan. In total, 21 Dutch soldiers have been killed in the region.


Other important decisions will also now be put on hold. This means there is unlikely to be any moves on government spending cuts planned for 2011 to get the national finances back under control. The budget deficit is set to reach 6.1% this year, double the EU limit.

Some 20 committees are currently looking at all areas of government activity in an effort to find €35bn in savings.

According to the latest opinion polls, the CDA and Geert Wilders' anti-immigration party PVV will be the biggest parties after the vote. But there are indications Labour's decision to pull out of the government may boost its electoral fortunes.

Was Labour right to pull out? Take part in our poll

More on this

Ministers still locked in talks on Afghanistan
Bos gets poll support for Afghanistan stand
Army chiefs amazed at Afghan crisis
Emergency debate on Afghanistan today
Cabinet in crisis over Afghanistan
Labour says final no to Afghanistan

© DutchNews.nl

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Readers' comments (34)

Never one to admit a wrong, a typical egocentric Balkenende with his reaction to blame Wouter Bos as his escape goat only exposes desperation in a has been prime Minister that never showed true leadership from the get go.

By sandrav | February 20, 2010 7:25 AM

I hope the queen is coming back from her holidays in Lech to do her bit and earn her fat salary

By Shirley | February 20, 2010 8:10 AM

It such a shame to disrupt the queen on the slops...I know a fax shop in Lech, where she can fax from...hate to see her have to go out of her way. After the dutch get rid of Harry Potter, then get rid of that useless (costly) royal family.

By alanposting | February 20, 2010 8:49 AM

This does not serve the interest of the Dutch public and that of Allies to continue the mission of Uruzgan which is an American Neocon issue. At last the Bakellend is gone and hope he never comes back. They lied about Iraq, how many more brave Dutch soldiers must die for this useless mission with mandate.

By Daud | February 20, 2010 8:52 AM

Whilst I have little sympathy for the CDA, I actually do feel a lot sympathy for Balkenende. He has strived to keep a relatively democratic government together whilst dutch politics have become more extreme right-wing. The real winner of this will probably be the PVV. God help us all should that Wilders character be in the next cabinet, or even worse, the next Prime Minister.

By Andy | February 20, 2010 10:10 AM

And now what....who are you going to call the next time the Germans come across the border?

By Mr. P | February 20, 2010 10:57 AM

Remove all non-american troops and let them fight their own war based on lies.

By Paul Martin | February 20, 2010 12:09 PM

Hopefully now the other Western countries who invaded Afghanistan will follow the Dutch example and leave. The Dutch should stop their support of NATO and should also stop supporting any other interests they have in other Middle East countries including Israel.

By Ali | February 20, 2010 12:53 PM

All these feeble coalitions.... The Dutchies should treat themselves to a majority government one of these decades; one that might actually be able to get on with governing and making some tough decisions.

By Esko | February 20, 2010 1:19 PM

The US is impoverishing its allies with a string of financial scams and yet it wants their support for its illegal wars. Similarly, the US wants Chinese support to emasculate Iran, which is a move designed to contain China's growth and influence.

By Dimitris | February 20, 2010 2:40 PM

The UK has been heroin and opium pusher for centuries. The USA is helping to secure the opium field managers, and name them Taliban. The next reason for the US/UK operation is to establish militarily bases in preparation for the attack on Iran. To stay and be part of the criminal organization, busy with invading sovereign nations, is shameful to say the least. Line up with the Chinese, they see this fiasco of human rights and laugh when being accused of the same.

By Captain Zen | February 20, 2010 3:08 PM

All of this is so very... Dutch, for lack of a better word. Oh how quickly we forget. I'm sure no Europeans were killed on 9/11/2001 at the WTC in NYC. I'm sure no Europeans have been killed by terrorists who received their orders and training from inside Afghanistan. It amazes me how many people think this is a US war. Well, the next time someone starts a European war, I will be very vocal about allowing it to remain a European war. In fact, I think all countries should become isolationist. Let each country fend for themselves. No more friend or foe, just me and mine. If your neighboring country can take your land, goods, services, and people then the better country will have won. Don't come asking for my help. I'll be busy protecting my own interests and not giving a damn about anyone else. Too bad so many American lives were lost protecting Europeans from a European dictator who posed very little threat to the US. I'm not saying that Europeans owe the Americans or the Canadians or the Brits (well, maybe the Brits and Canadians for hiding the Royal cowards). What I am saying is that the European countries have much more reason to be involved in Afghanistan than the US did being involved in WWII. Hitler didn't kill Americans in concentraion camps, but Bin Laden killed Europeans in the WTC. Think about it, then sharpen your fighting skills because it is my since hope that when NL needs help, the US won't be there.

By Tim | February 20, 2010 4:58 PM

I am so pleased to see that the Dutch are leaving Afghanistan. Lies from Bush and Blair started the illegal invasion. The real reason for this mass murder was to ensure the US companies got their gas pipeline. Since the CIA took control of Afghanistan, opium production has increased to more than 10 times the amount under the Taliban.

By Happy Brit | February 20, 2010 5:43 PM

Oh my wonderful Afghanistan that i visited in my 2os as a Hippy, what have they done to you! Never will you voluntarily let foreign soldiers on your soil.

By Captain Zen | February 20, 2010 5:50 PM

well(i'm italian) i think it's difficult to say if Wouter Bos has done the right thing but we should leave afghanistan in my personal opinion(also italian troops).what's the opinion of the pvv? and sp about ? anyway i hope pvda will do well in the elction!!

By charli | February 20, 2010 5:57 PM

Tim, the US will come to the assistance of the Dutch even if the Dutch leave Afghanistan. It is sad that many Europeans do not see this as their fight... you are closer to the problem and have no ocean to hide behind

By dan | February 20, 2010 6:30 PM

Oh my wonderful Afghanistan that i visited in my 2os as a Hippy, what have they done to you! Never will you voluntarily let foreign soldiers on your soil.

By Captain Zen | February 20, 2010 6:54 PM

The Dutch have done more than their share in Afghanistan. So have we Canadians (our troops are leaving in 2011). We can both be proud of the quality of our militaries...and also be proud that we lie in democracies and the citizens are listened to. Our citizens want our troops to come home.

By Raytheon | February 20, 2010 7:16 PM

Frankly if the Dutch forces in Afghanistan are as effective as they were in Srebrenitsa then no one will notice their withdrawal anyway

By UK Private soldier | February 20, 2010 8:30 PM

What type of result will the fall of the Dutch Government have on the Constitutional changes re the Netherlands Antilles 10-10-10 separate status.
Thank you in advance for your thoughts!

By mgrdir | February 20, 2010 8:59 PM

Im very happy with this decision by the Dutch.

By f | February 20, 2010 9:51 PM

The USA will never turn it´s back on the Netherlands or any part of Europe no matter what. You forget how much the Nederlands have already done for Nato. USA, Canada and Europe will always be linked through our roots and history. Especially we Dutch. We have too much of our european roots and history in the USA. Our blood flows through the veins of our descendants in the USA. That is, of course other Europeans as well who have family that have migrated to North America or Canada. Like family, there are times we will disagree with one another and say No to the USA, but it doesn´t mean we do not respect or care about our allies. The Netherlands, Britain, Canada have given all they can possibly give to Nato and Afghanistan. There comes a time when we have to say enough and pull out. Obama was well aware of our commitments and time table to pull out 1, Augustus 2010. People are losing lives, the war in afghanistan has been on going for over nine years now and no end in the war in the forseeable future which we don´t have trillions of Euros to throw away to a war that will never succeed in a country that does not want our Western interferences by the majority of the citizens in Afghanistan. No means no, even if it means hurt feelings and anger for a while.

By Sandra | February 20, 2010 10:52 PM

I dont understand the Dutch. Fair share? we want to come home. Sorry Folks we are there. Dont chicken out, get the JOB DONE then come home. Im a Brit, we dont quit, we did not in WW1 or WW2 and we wont now. Mistakes were made going, now we stay and we fight. NATO cant lose! if we do the alliance is finished and thats what the extremists want. Fight on, win with honour, dont quit.

By JD | February 20, 2010 10:52 PM

Don't look now, but the American government, as we on the other side of the pond once knew it, collapsed shortly after 9/11 - only we are too stupid and arrogant to acknowledge it and continue to believe in a system that promotes greed, war, and the likes of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Republican Party. Let's hope the Dutch don't make the same mistake and let a cadre of charlatans run their country, as they currently run ours. A pox on all their houses; the system is broken, a product of the lies of evil men who embraced a war in Iraq that should never have been fought.

By eric | February 20, 2010 11:58 PM

Taliban / Al-Qaeda 1, Netherlands 0. I wonder what the Netherlands would be like if Canada gave up before Holland had its freedom in WW2. I susprct it would be a lot different than it is today.
No Raytheon, Canadian citizens do NOT want our troops to come home. The Liberals and the NDP want our troops to come home. The Libs and the Dippers are more for the Taliban than they are for our troops.

If you are not ready to stand behind your troops, feel free to stand in front of them.

By JS | February 21, 2010 2:30 AM

Tim - how long do the Europeans have to sell their souls to American interests?

The Netherlands is still an Atlanticist country with a defense policy that revolves around NATO. The reality is that NATO is useless and only serves to maintain American hegemony over European nations and the EU.

The only concern we should have now is with Geert Wilders. Allow this fellow to win politically from this and the Netherlands could find itself in even worse and even isolated from the rest of the EU. Wilders should be in jail!

Why do you call a party a "Freedom Party" that wants to take away religious freedom from other citizens?

Lastly Tim - the Dutch are allowing Americans to use the Aruba and Curacao bases for America's "war on drugs," which many Americans now oppose and is the reason for high incarceration rates in the US. So - be proud of that!

By eslaporte@yahoo.com | February 21, 2010 4:00 AM

Sandra and all the others.The US had turned its back to europe and its allies. Besides it was a WAR based ON LIES. U created this war.Dont forget the terrorists were funded by US to fight the bad Soviets at those times (1980-1990s).We will help US when its attacked by someone (that is the purpose of NATO) but not to follow US on the wars they create based on LIES.

By alpha dog | February 21, 2010 10:44 AM

I'm very happy to see all the decent in Dutch society... we're winning!

By Ali | February 21, 2010 1:24 PM

The rest of Europe should get out of Afghanistan and let the Americans fight their own battle.

By Sandrav | February 21, 2010 4:42 PM

The true colours are coming out now, ALL lies yeah ok we were crazy to go there. It was a real error of Bush and Blair. The point is now we are there we have to stay. Justify it all you want folks the Netherlands is about to shame its its self again by walking out on people who need you. The sad thing is your armed forces are doing a magnificient job with courage and honour.

By jd | February 21, 2010 4:52 PM

Holland is a member of the UN and NATO thereby joined hands as allied forces with these 2 orgs to support wars whereever they may be and that is a part of the support and responsibility of member countries. If the parent orgs decided to extend the stay in warzones, the member countries automatically support their decisions.
So if the PM was ousted on this over one warring land, it is utterly unfair. I am sure there is more reasons than that may be economic, social issues, rather than the aforesaid issue.
Anyway, it is in the hands of the dutch public to rethink how their future should be shaped!
Remember - NO MAN IS AN ISLAND...... all countries should support each other in times of trouble.... History has to repeat itself and that's how the mightiest ones in Europe were crushed!!

By Maris | February 21, 2010 5:39 PM

The comments above by Paul Martin are spot-on. As an American, I am thoroughly discussed with our many years of adventure-ism foreign policy. We reacted to 911 as a military issue, when we should have treated it as a law enforcemnet issue. And then we try and drag our allies in these messes.
It should have been treated the same way as the Oklahoma City (Timothy McVey) bombing incident. Everyone forgets, Iran offered us Bin Laden's head, and we refused, so we could gin up the War on Terror nonsense...
We have so much wealth (sic) that we need to keep the Military Industrial Complex thriving, right. One day all this foolishness will do us in when China wants all money we own them....

By Bill | February 21, 2010 7:37 PM

Really people why are even concern what the Dutch do in their military affairs, or any country at that. If they want to pull out, that's THEIR problem, not the US, Canada or UK problem or any other goverments problem. Dutch have their own reasons as well any one else.

If a American wants to keep fighting then so what. If something good comes out of it for them then yay for them, if not oh well. Every country have their own set of problems that everyone points out.

I lived here for three year and notice that its no different from where I come from beside the fact most men and women I know spend all day smoking weed like its the last thing they will smoke, men stare at women like they're meat you have a parliment that is run by cowards and money hungry men who wants to keep stuffing their pockets with more money by bringing out new taxes in order to keep you in check while the Queen and her family are away skiing.

Sound like every goverment in every country to me, corupt. So before you sit here and write how bad the US, UK or any other country is think about how your goverment treat you first...

Besides Europe was lead by a man not too long ago who believe that German race was the strongest race in the world and let me remind some of you how the Dutch did nothing to stop him...which goes to show and I do go agree with one person here, the Dutch would probably laid down their arms if they ever got invaded again and that would the Dutches problem and no one else.

By Yuna | February 21, 2010 11:25 PM

I think now is not the time to pull out. At this point I think a pull out by all forces will lead to more problems. And a pull out by the Dutch is not a good move. Push for peace, but it will have to come in small steps. Hoping it will all get better if we leave will not work.
Does the hate which drove people to commit acts like 911 have a limit? Do we sit back and wait until more effective mass murder technology is in the hands of extremists. Extremists who are allowed to thrive and grow in these regions? Why didn’t the rulers in Afghanistan see 911 or the world trade bombing was wrong and help eliminate the hate groups that made it happen? I am not saying countries need to like the west, but there has to be a limit set on murder and terrorism. There is a cultural and ideological clash going on and it’s not just about the Anglo west. The war zone is ground zero and has probably contained the spread of violence. Peace can start there too, but we cannot leave without someone in charge who is willing to eliminate terrorism or at least contain the terrorism in their borders ,if that is their culture.

On a side note. How do these same countries, which pull out prior to the end of conflict, then allow their companies to go back to these same places and extract resources for profit. Case and point Iraq Shell and others Euro companies won the largest oil contracts.

By tuffspot | February 22, 2010 1:43 PM

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