France has offered to send military instructors to help train Afghan soldiers in southern Afghanistan, boosting Dutch efforts in the region.
Speaking at the meeting of NATO defence ministers in Noordwijk, French defence minister Herve Morin said France would not send combat troops but would continue to provide much needed air cover, news agency AP reported.
The Dutch government is currently deciding whether to extend its mission in Afghanistan after the summer of 2008 and has urged its NATO allies to do more.
Defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop would not say whether the extra support will be enough to convince his government to keep troops in Afghanistan. ‘All options remain open… No-one should just presume that the Netherlands will stay,’ he told the Volkskrant.
But US defence secretary Robert Gates told the media that he ‘hopes and expects’ the Netherlands to stay in Uruzgan.
The Volkskrant puts the total cost of the Dutch military action in Afghanistan at at least €1.2bn, double the €580m that the defence ministry says has been spent.
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