Decision Afghan mission likely to be delayed

A decision on whether the Netherlands should extend its peace-keeping mission to Afghanistan is unlikely to be taken before October, says the main opposition liberal VVD.

The decision on whether to keep Dutch troops in the southern province of Uruzgan as part of the Nato-led mission after the current August 2008 mandate expires was originally due at the end of the summer.
In an interview with ANP news service, VVD MP Hans van Baalen makes two conditions for his party’s support for the extension of the mission.
Firstly the cabinet must make more cash available and secondly a third country must join Dutch and Australian troops in Uruzgan.
VVD support is necessary if the government is to get the broad consensus it needs for extending the mission. The Netherlands has 1,600 troops in Afghanistan.
According to Van Baalen, the current two year operation is already costing much more than the €600m allocated. He estimates the real cost is closer to €900m.
Van Baalen says the cabinet must set aside an extra €400m if the mission is extended but does not want this to come from the defence budget. Finance minister Wouter Bos must find the money from the treasury or use the development aid ministry’s budget he told ANP.
The addition of troops from a third country to the Dutch mission is, said Van Baalen, the responsibility of Nato. He himself would consider Germany, Morocco or Indonesia but stressed that it was up to Nato to ensure a third country provides several hundred military personnel, preferably troops on the ground, so that some of the Dutch soldiers can withdraw.
Although the cabinet has not formally said it is postponing its decision on Uruzgan, foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen has said in the past that a delay of a couple of weeks would not be a problem, reports ANP. He is currently in talks with Nato partners.
Nine Dutch soldiers have died during the Uruzgan mission.

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