Broad support for Afghanistan mission (update)

The cabinet looks almost certain to get its desired broad-based support for its decision to extend the Dutch military mission to Afghanistan, reports ANP news service on Tuesday afternoon.

MP Hans van Baalen told ANP that the opposition liberal VVD party would stand firmly behind the government on one condition. It wants the cabinet to repeat its promise that all Dutch troops will be withdrawn from the province of Uruzgan by the end of 2010 during the final parliamentary debate on the issue on Tuesday evening.
The government’s decision now has the support of the three coalition parties, the VVD and the orthodox Christian SGP and is expected to have the support of 103 of parliament’s 150 MPs, considerably fewer than last year when Dutch soldiers were first sent to participate in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
On Monday defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop pledged that the armed forces would not lose out on operational capacity as a result of the extension to the Uruzgan mission.
The cabinet also agreed that there will be more attention given to the reconstruction aims of the mission, but said offensive operations like that currently taking place in the Baluchi Valley could not be ruled out.
On Monday, the International Herald Tribune reported that the Dutch government has awarded a €34 million contract to a German development organisation to rebuild roads and help farmers in Uruzgan.

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