Labour supports longer Afghan mission

Labour MPs support the extension of the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan, according to Thursday’s Volkskrant.

The paper says a majority of PvdA MPs are behind an 18 month extension, while others feel three to six months should be sufficient.
The tentative Labour support means there is now a majority in parliament in favour of extending the Dutch involvement in the region beyond August 2009.
The Netherlands has some 1,700 troops in Afghanistan, mainly involved in rebuilding efforts in the southern province of Uruzgan. Twelve soldiers have so far died on active duty in the region.
The government has come under considerable pressure from NATO chiefs to stay longer. Both Canada and Australia have said their own position depends on what the Dutch do.
The two other coalition partners, Christian Democrats and ChristenUnie have already made it clear they back a longer stay. And defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop said earlier it is the cabinet’s intention to keep troops in Uruzgan after the current mandate expires.
The cabinet had been expected to make a formal decision after the summer, but has delayed the deadline several times. It is now due by the end of this month.
In October, it emerged that Netherlands’ top military official Dick Berlijn is advising the government to reduce the number of soldiers serving in Afghanistan but to extend the Dutch mission for two years.

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