Dutch want more civilians in Afghanistan

The Dutch defence minister has called for a bigger role for civil organisations in rebuilding Afghanistan and wants more use to be made of the NATO fund set up last year on the initiative of the Dutch. The fund contains over €500,000.

Eimert van Middelkoop’s comments follow a meeting of defence ministers from the eight NATO countries with troops in southern Afghanistan in Canada earlier this week.
‘NATO must function as a bridge for the UN, EU and other civil groups… It is important that NATO creates a safe environment so that others can work on reconstruction. Fighting is not our goal, just the opposite,’ said Van Middelkoop.
The Netherlands’ ‘soft’ approach in the southern province of Uruzgan provoked widespread interest from its allies earlier this year. Dutch troops focus on building trust with locals rather than fighting the Taliban.
In Canada this week, Van Middelkoop said his country’s ‘three D (development, diplomacy and defence) strategy’ in Afghanistan should get a higher profile. ‘It would be good if all partners deployed civil advisors as well as military leaders in the HQs,’ the minister said.
The defence ministers agreed that all eight countries would supply a civil advisor to army chiefs in Khandahar to increase civil influence on the mission.
Van Middelkoop said he was happy with the outcome of the meeting which will be presented to Nato secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The next meeting of the ISAF countries will take place in the Netherlands this summer.

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