The cabinet is poised to make one of the most politically-sensitive decisions in years: whether or not to extend the role of Dutch troops in Afghanistan past the initial August 2008 deadline.
A majority of the population is opposed and think the 1,800 or so Dutch soldiers serving there should be brought home. But NATO wants the Dutch to stay and is, insiders say, exerting considerable pressure.
Dutch and Australian troops are working side by side in the southern province of Uruzgan. It is a dangerous place. So far 10 Dutch soldiers have died. But as tragic as those deaths are, they are no reason to pull out.
If you join the army, you know you may face death. Serving your country is what being a soldier is all about.
Rebuilding Afghanistan is a long-term project. We cannot expect instant results. The government says it wants a third country to commit to joining the Dutch-Australian troops and that pressure to participate should be maintained on our NATO allies.
But if other countries fail in their duty, that is no reason for the Dutch to give up. The Dutch way of working in Afghanistan, with its emphasis on winning the support of local people, has won universal praise.
It would be tragedy for the people of Afghanistan if the Netherlands decided not to support them for a longer period.
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