The Netherlands wants to contribute 30 to 40 soldiers to take part in the European Union’s training mission to Mali, defence and diplomatic sources have told the Volkskrant.
If possible, the Dutch soldiers will join the mission before the summer, either to protect other trainers or train middle-ranking officers themselves, the paper says.
The aim of the EU mission is to boost the professionalism of the government’s army, which is fighting Muslim extremists. The Volkskrant says foreign affairs minister Frans Timmermans (Labour) has been keen to see the Netherlands support the project but there has been resistance from coalition partner VVD.
Meanwhile, Nato is lobbying to ensure Dutch soldiers remain involved in its work in Afghanistan. Secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday he hoped the Netherlands would contribute to the new mission next year.
‘The Netherlands is very experienced and Nato is asking every country to play its part,’ Rasmussen said at a news conference in response to a question from Nos television.
The current Nato mission winds down next year. The Netherlands has 545 people in the north of the country, involved with the ongoing police training programme. However, their number will be wound down over the next few months.