PM makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende paid a surprise visit to Dutch troops at Camp Holland in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday morning.

During his speech, marking six years since the terrorist attacks in the US, the prime minister praised Dutch soldiers’ expertise and professionalism.
Later in the day he held talks with Afghan president Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
It is the prime minister’s second visit to the region, where some 1,800 Dutch troops are working on reconstruction efforts under the auspices of NATO. The Dutch government is under pressure to extend the stay of Dutch troops in the region beyond the August 2008 deadline.
However, it emerged yesterday that the decision will now not be taken before next month at the earliest.
Defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop and senior army staff are currently in Washington to talk about the options with US defence chiefs.

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